Li Yang is a well known personality in China, he invented a business called “Crazy English”, teaching English to millions of Chinese people with a radically new program involving hand gestures, slogans and lots of shouting. In 2006 Yang married American Kim Lee after meeting her in 1999, the couple had 3 children together.
In 2011 Lee walked out of their Beijing apartment after her 3-year old daughter had been witness to yet another episode of Yang physically abusing his wife. In a landmark court ruling, a Beijing court now granted Ms. Lee a divorce on grounds of abuse, gave her custody of her three children, and issued a three-month protection order against her ex-husband.
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse of married women is common in China, the incidence is estimated at between one quarter to one third of all women, according to the All-China Women’s Federation. And it is also traditionally considered something to be kept under wraps and “not to be aired”.
Kim Lee posted pictures of her battered face and body on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, and thereby not only broke tradition and customs, but also inspired and energized a whole new movement of women and activists. The Chinese government has since announced it will create an anti-domestic violence law. And Kim Lee has inspired Chinese women to come forward with their stories:
Feng Yuan, a women’s rights activist, says the case is extremely important.
“It’s a milestone case in China against domestic violence against women,” Feng says. “Her admission she’d been abused allowed it to become a topic of public discussion because of media concern. It also highlights the deficiencies in current Chinese law, and what needs to be changed to better protect women.”
“They range from absolutely heart-wrenching — from a teenager, ‘My mom killed herself to punish my dad, so please, Kim — she couldn’t do anything — please don’t give up,’ ” Lee says, choking up as she describes the stories of abuse. “And sometimes women will send me photos, and they’re horrible. And they’ll say, ‘Kim, please delete this after I send it to you. My husband will kill me if he knows I told anyone, but I can’t tell anyone, and what should I do?’
Chinese society has mastered the art of keeping family dirty laundry in the family, and it took an American woman to break the taboo. Here’s to hoping that Chinese women, and Chinese law, will follow Kim Lee’s example, and start to shine a light on more of the estimated 80 million domestic abuse cases that are said to occur in China every year.