20080310-legal knowledge7.jpg Domestic violence remains a huge problem in China. According to Chinese government statistics released in January 2013, one in four women in China are subjected to domestic violence, including marital rape and beatings. Legislation against it is minimal and acceptance of the subjugation of is deeply ingrained and go back over two millennia. An old saying in China goes: "If you don’t beat up your wife every three days, she'll start tearing up the roof tiles"---meaning that a wife that is not periodically beaten gets out if control. The saying not only condones domestic violence but implies it is necessary. Laws against domestic violence have only recently been put on the books. In the early 2000, the marriage law was amended to explicitly outlaw domestic violence.

According to AFP: Less than two decades ago, physical abuse was not even acceptable as grounds for divorce in China. Nearly 40 percent of Chinese women who are married or in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported, citing figures from the All-China Women’s Federation. The group, which is linked to the ruling Communist party, has reported that abuse takes place in nearly a quarter of Chinese families.“Domestic violence is illegal and affects family members physically and psychologically,” Tan Lin, head of the federation, told the China Daily. “It is not a private issue but a social problem.” [Source: AFP, November 26, 2014 **]

Good Websites and Sources: All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) website: ; Directory of Sources on Women’s Issues in China / ; ; Bibliography / ; Library of Congress ; 1990s Sources Brooklyn College ; Women in China Sources ; Chinese Government Site on Women Women of China ; Village ; Marjorie Chan’s

Human Trafficking Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in China ;Human; China Development Brief ; International Labor Organization Foot Binding Term Paper on Foot Binding ; San Francisco Museum ; NPR Footbinding Story ; Angelfire ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia


Victims of Domestic Violence in China

Cases of women being horribly disfigured with acid have been reported in China. In one village in Shaanxi province a woman was held down by three women while her husband poured acid on her face and breast, scaring her horribly for he rest of her life. Her crime: she tried to leave her husband, who repeatedly beat her, and sought a divorce. Husband abuse is also a serious problem. Incidents of men being bullied and beaten by viscous wives are frequently reported. A Chinese sociologist told the International Herald Tribune that husbands are “easy prey to their wives who either complain about money and household chores or try to beat their husbands into acceptance of extramarital affairs.”

NPR reported: “ Kim Lee, a victim of abuse in a highly publicized case (See Below) said she received messages from more than 1,000 women. "They range from absolutely heart-wrenching — from a teenager, 'My mom killed herself to punish my dad... she couldn't do anything. "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?' [Source: NPR, February 7, 2013]

Though domestic violence is illegal in China, many still consider it a private matter in which the state has no business interfering. Ying Zhu wrote in China File, In 2009,Zhang Yue, the host of a women’s program on China Central Television (CCTV) called Half the Sky, “recounted how a series of gender-consciousness training sessions helped to inject progressive gender politics in the program’s otherwise-resistant production crew. She told me how, during one intense discussion, a male colleague broke down, tearfully confessing that he beat his wife. He lived in a small town in northern China where men routinely beat their wives, Zhang recalled. “He was much ashamed about the belated awareness of domestic abuse and later apologized to his wife. But many men still consider wife-beating an honorable thing to do,” she said. “I was in northeast China the other day, and a group of men confronted me, telling me that our program was misguided and that there was nothing wrong with beating up one’s wife because how else can one turn a woman into a good wife.” [Source: Ying Zhu, China File, February 11, 2013]

Crazy English Teacher Admits to Domestic Violence

Evan Osnos wrote on The New Yorker website, In September 2011 "Li's wife publicly posted photos of her herself online with severe bruises on her head and knees and, in a series of Twitter-like messages, she vowed to seek a divorce. (She wrote, “You knocked me to the floor. You sat on my back. You choked my neck with both hands and slammed my head into the floor. When I pried your hands from my neck you grabbed my hair and slammed my head into the floor ten more times!”)

In China, it was a sensation, drawing headlines and thousands of online comments; people condemned the Crazy English founder and demanded that he respond. For days Li stayed silent, but later he admitted to “domestic violence” against his wife and kids that “caused them serious physical and mental damage.” In a strange interview with China Daily...he sounded less than contrite, saying the “problem involves character and cultural differences, which are difficult to solve through counseling.” According to the article, he also said, “I hit her sometimes but I never thought she would make it public since it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders. But I still respect her for raising three girls on her own and for her passion for her students.”

If there is anything positive to be sifted from the sad affair, it is that the case has focused attention to China’s under-discussed problems of domestic violence, especially in high-income urban families. When it is discussed, abuse is usually described as a problem left over in remote rural areas, but Li’s case has prompted Chinese counselors to report that “nearly half of domestic violence abusers are people who have higher education, senior jobs and social status.”

Crazy English Wife Abuse Spotlights Domestic Violence in China

In February 2103, NPR reported: “The faces of American Kim Lee and her Chinese husband, Li Yang, both in their 40s, once graced the covers of books that sold in the millions. He was China's most famous English teacher, the "Crazy English" guru of China, who pioneered his own style of English teaching: pedagogy through shouted language, yelling to halls of thousands of students. His methods were given official recognition after he was employed by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee . A fellow teacher, Lee married Li in 2006. They have three daughters. And Lee, who is from Florida, worked alongside her husband to build the Crazy English empire. "I enjoy losing face!" is one of Li's mottoes, in a bid to lessen the inhibitions of China's shy language learners, who fear mistakes. But 18 months ago, his wife used that slogan against him. [Source: NPR, February 7, 2013 ^^]

“When he brutally beat Lee, she posted a picture of her battered face, showing a huge lump protruding from her forehead. She put it on his page on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, under the heading, "I love losing my face = I love hitting my wife's face?" She followed this with pictures showing her bloodied ear and raw, injured spots on her knee. "Li Yang, you need help," she wrote. "Domestic violence is a serious problem." ^^

“She says she went public out of desperation, trying to get her husband's attention. "That day the violence was so horrific. I went to the police station, and I went to the hospital, and my husband went on TV and did a TV show. I thought maybe he just didn't even realize how seriously he hurt me, even though he was sitting on my back, slamming my head in the floor," Lee recalls. "I thought, that will really get his attention. Maybe then he'll come to the realization, 'Oh, I've really seriously injured my wife. I better go home, I better deal with this.' But he didn't." ^^

“As her photos went viral, the story spiraled into the public consciousness, marking the first time a high-profile wife in China had publicly announced that she'd been beaten. "I hit her sometimes, but I never thought she would make it public since it's not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders," . He blamed their problems on "character and cultural differences, which are difficult to solve through counseling."But in other interviews, he gave literal blow-by-blow accounts. He even told one journalist he'd only married Lee as a cultural experiment, for research in American child-rearing techniques.” ^^

Ying Zhu wrote in China File, “Lee endured years of an increasingly loveless and volatile relationship—during which Li spent most of the time away from Lee and their three daughters, visiting home only two days most months.... While living with Li in Beijing, Lee had no bank account, no property under her name, not even a driver’s license. She relied solely on the cash Li delivered to her in an envelope each month... Li was unperturbed by her wounds, rebuffing Lee in public for defying Chinese tradition by taking a domestic matter public. [Source: Ying Zhu, China File, February 11, 2013]

Reaction to the Crazy English Wife Abuse Case

Ying Zhu wrote in China File, “The case aroused strong reactions among China’s Netizens. While many women wrote to relay their own sufferings at the hands of men or to express sympathy and show support, some questioned whether Lee was making too big a fuss over what they took as routine. Indeed for many in China, especially in rural areas, physical violence within the confines of the family is an accepted part of a marital relationship where wife-beating is a man’s natural right. [Source: Ying Zhu, China File, February 11, 2013 <>]

Zhang Yue, the host of a women’s program on China Central Television (CCTV) called Half the Sky, She interviewed Li Yang in 2009 when rumors surfaced that he had hit his wife. But Zhang softballed the interview and later was criticized online by regular Netizens for taking lightly the pride of a battered woman, and an American, no less. On September 25, 2011 shortly after Kim Lee took her case public, another CCTV program, the weekly news magazine show Eyewitness, persuaded Lee and her husband Li Yang to appear on the program, albeit separately, to talk about marriage and domestic relations. The interviewer, Chai Jing, an empathetic young woman, was incredulous when confronted with Li’s utter lack of emotion. <>

“At one point, Li said that he was kind enough to grace his home with his presence once or twice a month. “I did not have to go home at all,” he said matter-of-factly. The contrast between Lee’s devastation and pleading and Li’s chilly lack of emotional response or genuine remorse was shocking. Footage of Li’s female fans reassuring him that he had done no wrong and that his wife had blown things out of proportion was jarring to say the least. Yet this is the reality of China. <>

Crazy English Wife Abuse Court Case and Investigation

NPR reported: “ Their 18-month legal battle was to become the country's most closely watched divorce case. When the verdict finally came on Feb. 3, it made the nightly news. A Beijing court ruled in Kim Lee's favor, granting her a divorce, custody of their three children, compensation of $8,000 for the abuse and assets of almost $2 million. The court issued a restraining order against her ex-husband — the first time ever in Beijing. [Source: NPR, February 7, 2013 ^^]

“For Lee, it's been a long struggle against an unsympathetic police system. She describes hours of endless waiting and countless examples of official obfuscation. 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." ^^

"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.' " 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." ^^

Later Xinhua reported: “Chinese "Crazy English" teacher Li Yang has filed an appeal to a Beijing court over the divorce granted to his former wife, disagreeing with the domestic abuse charge and compensation order. According to the Beijing Chaoyang District Court verdict, Li was ordered to pay his former wife 50,000 yuan (about $7,960 dollars) in compensation for her psychological traumas and a one-off sum of 12 million yuan in consideration of the property the couple shared, in addition to an annual child support payment of 100,000 yuan to each of their three daughters before each turns 18. In his appeal, Li disagreed with the property distribution and compensation, claiming he himself was also the victim of domestic violence in the relationship. [Source: Xinhua, February 20, 2013]

Legislation Against Domestic Violence in China

Since 2000, local governments across China have passed local regulations on domestic violence. But these regulations focus on general principles and lack specific provisions to effectively protect women from domestic violence. In Sichuan Province the anti-domestic violence regulation does not include protective orders for victims. [Source: Human Rights Watch, January 30, 2013]

The growing call for anti-domestic violence legislation prompted the Supreme People’s Court’s own investigation into the issue. The investigation, made public in January 2013, found current laws and regulations insufficient to protect women from domestic violence. According to the Supreme People’s Court, there is no clear standard stipulating the conditions under which investigations and prosecutions should be initiated; as a result, such investigations and prosecutions are rare. Even when such cases do come before courts, judges tend to treat domestic violence as a marital dispute and issue light punishments to abusers. The Supreme People’s Court investigation also pointed out that in cases where women respond to violence with violence, law enforcement agencies tend to discount their claims of abuse and failed to take them into account during sentencing.

Since 2008, the state-run All China Women’s Federation has recommended that the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, draft a law to address domestic violence. Apart from an announcement that such drafting was in its work plans in early 2012, there has been no government information on details, timing, or when such draft laws might be discussed or adopted.

Death Sentence Given to Victim of Severe Domestic Violence in China

In January 2013, Li Yan was given the the death sentence after being convicted of killing her husband following months of violent abuse that included hacking off one of her fingers. She went to the police, but they didn't intervene. According to Human Rights Watch: In November 2010, Li Yan, from Sichuan Province, killed her husband Tan Yong following a violent dispute. According to Li’s lawyer, Tan had kicked Li and threatened to shoot her with an air rifle when Li grabbed the rifle and struck Tan with it, killing him. Li then dismembered Tan’s body. “It is cruel and perverse for the government to impose the death penalty on Li Yan when it took no action to investigate her husband’s abuse or to protect her from it,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “China’s legal system needs to take account of the circumstances that can lead domestic violence survivors to resort to violence in self-defense.” [Source: Human Rights Watch, January 30, 2013]

Li and Tan had married in March 2009 and Tan started to abuse her soon after. According to Li’s lawyers and her brother, Tan had abused Li in the months prior to the murder: he had kicked and beaten her, locked her in their home during the day without food or drink, locked her out overnight on the balcony including during winter, burned her face and legs with cigarette butts, and once dragged her down three flights of stairs by her hair. Li had repeatedly complained about Tan’s abuses to the police, to the neighborhood committee, and to the local branch of the government-organized All China Women’s Federation (ACWF) as early as August 2010. Evidence of that abuse, including police records, hospital records, witness testimony, pictures of her injuries, and complaints to the ACWF, were presented in court. Neither the police nor the ACWF investigated the allegations against Tan. According to Li’s brother, the police had told Li that this was a “family matter” and that she should seek help from the local neighborhood committee.

However, the Ziyang City Intermediate People’s Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to confirm that Li suffered domestic violence. Because all the witness statements affirming Li’s injuries had come from her friends and family, and because the authorities to whom Li had reported the abuse had taken no action to investigate and confirm Tan was the source of the abuse, the court ruled that it was not clear that domestic violence had taken place. The court convicted her of “intentional homicide” and stated that the death penalty is warranted because “the murder was committed in a cruel fashion and that the consequences severe.”

An appeals court upheld this decision in August 2012. Li’s case was then transferred to the Supreme People’s Court, which reportedly approved the execution recently but has not yet issued the execution order, according to lawyers familiar with the case. Once the order is issued, Li will be executed within seven days.Since her case and sentence have become known to the public in recent weeks, nearly 400 Chinese citizens, lawyers, and scholars have signed petitions calling for a halt of the execution. Separately, since November 7, more than 8,000 people have signed another petition calling for anti-domestic violence legislation.

China Drafts an Anti-Domestic Violence in 2014

In November 2014, China drafted its first national law against domestic violence. Activists hailing it as a step forward in a country where abuse has long been sidelined as a private matter but criticized it for being too watered down. AFP reported: “The new law formally defines domestic violence for the first time and streamlines the process for obtaining restraining orders – measures long advocated by anti-domestic abuse groups. “Over the years, we’ve many times felt powerless ourselves to help victims,” said Hou Zhiming, a veteran women’s rights advocate who heads the Maple Women’s Psychological Counselling Centre in Beijing. “If this law is actually enacted – because the issuing of a draft means it will now enter the law-making process – we will be very pleased....At the very least, there’s finally movement on this law.” [Source: AFP, November 26, 2014 **]

“But advocates also say the draft law, released by the Legislative Affairs Office of China’s State Council, excludes unmarried and divorced couples and falls short in some other areas. Julia Broussard, country programme manager for UN Women, said that UN agencies were thrilled to see the law made public after more than a decade of efforts by Chinese advocates, “but we did note right away that it doesn’t extend to any non-family relations”. “We know that domestic violence is also occurring in the context of other relationships not defined as family relationships,” including dating, cohabiting and same-sex couples, Broussard said. “And so, our concern is that some of the violence is not going to be addressed by the law,” she added. **

“But without a legal definition of the term, many victims – if they report abuse at all – have been shuffled from police to women’s federation to neighbourhood committee, with authorities reluctant to intervene unless serious injury is involved. “It’s very important for China to have some kind of nationwide, targeted domestic violence legislation on the books, because it has not had it, and it’s been a real legal barrier for a lot of women seeking to extricate themselves from very abusive relationships,” said Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: the Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. Despite the shortcomings, we need to acknowledge that this is important legislation and a very important first step towards tackling this epidemic of domestic violence in China,” she said. **

“Currently, little protection is available if a partner threatens violence against a victim who tries to leave, activists note, as restraining orders are rarely issued in China and shelters are nearly non-existent. Courts must rule on restraining order requests within 48 hours, according to the draft law – but if one is granted, the victim must start a lawsuit within 30 days or it would lapse. Experts say it is rare for domestic violence laws to require victims to undertake a lawsuit to obtain or maintain a restraining order. “This is a bit problematic,” Broussard said. “We know from experience that many victims are not necessarily at that point of seeking divorce or some other kind of legal action that would be required to maintain the legal protection ruling.” **

Image Sources: Posters: Landsberger Posters ; Asia Obscura

Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) \=/; 5), the Chinese government news site | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated July 2015

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