Kim Lee, an American who was married to celebrity English teacher Li Yang, has become the public face for women fighting domestic violence in China. When Lee won her divorce case, after publicizing photos of her brutalized face, it was viewed as a landmark case in China, where domestic violence is not often discussed publicly. Since the resolution of her 18-month case, Lee has spoken out on behalf of Chinese women who have written to her telling their own stories of violence at the hands of their husbands. Louisa Lim of NPR interviewed Lee last week, when she discussed the many hurdles she faced in pressing her case:
In one instance, she was told her physical evidence was inadmissible because she had visited the wrong hospital. Another time she was told that the correct police official was not present to take her evidence. And she was also informed that voice recordings were needed of her husband’s threats against her.
“The whole system here is designed to pressure women to give up and just drop it. But I didn’t. I just didn’t give up,” Lee says. “So that’s why when they read the decree and they issued the protection order, I just really sighed. I think I earned it.”
Li didn’t attend court the day of the judgment, and he didn’t respond to NPR’s request for an interview. Throughout the process, Lee — who’s also a teacher — has been guided by the example she’s setting for their daughters.
“I made a conscious decision. I used a Chinese lawyer, I used Chinese courts,” she says. “To be honest, a lot of my American friends did not understand this. They were like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re American. Go to the embassy immediately.’ But I did not want to teach my daughters, ‘No one can beat you because you’re American.’ I wanted to teach them, ‘No one can beat you because you’re a person, you’re a woman.’ “
On Huffington Post, Abby Huntsman, daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, interviewed Lee as well: