Evan Osnos profiles Kim Lee, an American who divorced her abusive Chinese husband, Li Yang. A Chinese court “granted a divorce on grounds of domestic violence, an issue widely overlooked in China, and the court issued a three-month restraining order against her husband that the state media described as unprecedented”:
She took Li to court, and ignited a national conversation about domestic abuse. On the street, she encountered men who cursed her; in perhaps the clearest sign of what she was confronting, her husband’s lawyer, Shi Ziyue, disputed that the abuse constituted “domestic violence” because, he said, “Domestic violence is when a man hits and injures his wife frequently over a long time but has no reason, but my client did that because he had conflicts with his wife.
These two high-profile domestic violence cases are far from isolated; in fact, they are part of an epidemic. Traditional wisdom in China is to deal with domestic violence as something “best kept inside the house”. In September 2011, when Lee first broke the silence by posting the pictures of her battered face on the internet, her husband and like-minded male observers accused her of “airing the dirty laundry”. He also argued that it was “no big deal,” and that domestic abuse was part of Chinese culture. But now Lee has become an unlikely hero for having the courage to speak out.