Monday, 4 February 2013

Shining the Spotlight on Domestic Abuse

Crazy English founder Li Yang and his now ex-wife American Kim Lee
An interesting divorce case has settled in Beijing with the court ordering the Chinese husband to give his American wife 12 million RMB ($1.93 million) in assets due to domestic violence. She also gets 50,000 RMB for the mental anguish she suffered during the abusive marriage, and he must also pay 100,000 RMB annually for each of his three daughters, who will be raised by their mother.

The case emerged in August 2011 when Kim Lee posted pictures on her microblog of bruises she sustained when Li Yang hit her.

"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," she wrote. She added that he only stopped after one of the daughters intervened.

A week later Li apologized to his wife and children, saying "This has caused them serious physical and mental damage."

Lee posted pictures of the bruises from domestic abuse
She filed for divorce in October. Li is the founder of Crazy English, an unorthodox learning program where students focus more on learning English orally, practically shouting slogans to gain more confidence in speaking the language.

The divorce proceedings lasted for more than a year and it shone a spotlight on domestic abuse. According to the All China Women's Federation in 2009, one-third of Chinese homes have seen domestic abuse, with 85 percent of them directed against women. The survey added most of the violence was in the rural areas, where many women expect to be hit by their husbands.

What's particularly interesting about this case is there is a foreigner involved. Lee, originally from Florida, met Li in the northern city of Jilin in June 1999 and in 2003 they tied the knot in Las Vegas.

He founded Crazy English in 1994 which was initially a hit and garnered thousands of fans who gathered in stadiums to shouting out slogans together, including "Conquer English to make China Stronger!"

But in recent years the fad waned and in particular after the allegations of wife beating, many called for a boycott of Li's programs, or were extremely disappointed their idol was accused of domestic abuse.

Li encourages a massive crowd of students to shout in English
Outside the court after the ruling, Lee was overjoyed to tears and urged mainland women to stand up for their rights. She said the divorce was "unpleasant", but said she would not stop Li from visiting the girls. "If he wishes, I can arrange for people to pick up the girls," she said.

During the legal proceedings, the court found Li had abused Lee many times, and especially the 2011 incident constituted domestic violence under Chinese martial laws and so she was awarded 50,000 RMB.

To decide who the children would live with, the judge consulted with the eldest daughter, 10-year-old Li Li who said she would prefer living with their mother. The two other daughters are six and four.

The 12 million RMB must be paid through asset division in the next three months. Lee told the court Li owned more than 20 properties in Guangzhou and Beijing, and had bank savings, stocks in five companies and owned 23 registered trademarks.

This case was very straight forward for the court to rule on, with so much evidence available, and because a foreigner and a high profile person were involved, rule of law had to be followed to the letter.

If this had been a mainland Chinese woman who went through the same thing, would she have gotten the same ruling?

We hope this case will give more women the courage to stand up and speak out when their husband hits them.

And we also hope that with the growing deficit of girls compared to boys in China, that in the future men will treat women better because only the lucky ones will have a mate.

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