In a groundbreaking ruling for domestic violence law and women’s rights, a Beijing court granted a divorce on grounds of domestic abuse and issued its first ever restraining order on behalf of Kim Lee on Sunday, February 3rd. Lee, an American woman, initially made public accusations of domestic violence against her Chinese celebrity husband, Li Yang, in 2011 by posting graphic photos of her injuries on her blog. Because of Yang’s wealth and fame, which stems from him founding a unique set of English-language schools called “Crazy English,” this case has become a high-profile matter throughout China and the international community.
The court’s issuing of a three-month protection order, acknowledgment of domestic violence as grounds for divorce, and demand for Yang to pay 50,000 renminbi to Lee in compensation for the violence represents a huge feat for Lee. The court’s ruling also marks an important step for women in China and around the world, by declaring that domestic violence is a criminal act that will be not be tolerated.
While Lee has stated that she is very satisfied with the court’s ruling, according to the New York Times, the financial terms of the divorce settlement are unjust considering Yang’s wealth. While it was ordered that he pay 12 million renminbi ($1.9 million) to Lee and a fixed sum annually in child support for their three daughters, who Lee got custody of, this amount is not commensurate with his true assets. His ability to hide much of his money from the courts reveals a flaw in the system. Yet the court’s ruling still remains a significant step for Lee and for women’s rights.
Since Lee made her abuse public, she received 1,141 letters and emails from other abused women and children, highlighting how prevalent and severe domestic violence is. Hopefully, this case will be used as a model for other civil cases in China, enabling others like Lee to use Chinese law to protect their rights, safety, and the well-being of themselves and their families.