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Domestic violence in the spotlight in China
Huey Fern Tay reports on the high-profile case bringing domestic violence into the spotlight in China.

After years of advocacy by women's rights groups, China's parliament has agreed to consider enacting a law against domestic violence.

Campaigners say around one in four women in China is a victim of abuse, but few dare to speak out.

Now a high profile case has brought the issue into the spotlight.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports.
(Excerpt from 'Crazy English' promotional video plays)

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Li Yang's way of teaching English is unconventional to say the least.

But he has built an empire in China and become a household name along the way.

So last year when his American born wife Kim Lee revealed that she had been repeatedly beaten by him over the years, many people were shocked.

(Photographs from Kim Lee's Weibo account)

Kim Lee posted photographs of herself bruised and battered on Weibo China's version of Twitter.

KIM LEE: I just made up my mind at that minute that was the last time. This is never going to happen again. And from that point I don't know what took over, instinct maybe, so...

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: It wasn't long before her post went viral. A tiny following of 24 soon ballooned to more than 70,000.

Many Chinese knew her as the wife of a celebrity and just as many were surprised by her decision to go public with the physical abuse that had been going on.

KIM LEE: So my primary goal in putting them on Weibo was to get help for myself, to help me with my three girls because no one was here. And although a part of me did know once I did that I could never go back, they could never be unseen. I mean that's a commitment to telling my friends and the people I'm closest with in China. So there was no more secret.

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Kim Lee and her husband are now in the midst of a high profile and bitter dispute over the custody of their three children. She's also seeking at least half of his assets.

(Excerpts from media reports play)

Both have taken to the media to tell their side of the story and he has admitted hitting his wife. He claims it happened because of pressure from work. He was based in Guangzhou and only saw his wife once a month. They would often have intense arguments as his wife was also stressed from raising their daughters on her own.

(Excerpt of interview with Li Yang plays)

LI YANG (translation): I lost control. When I saw her stand up and I saw the look in her eyes. Then at that moment I pushed her and beat her to the floor.

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: The split has become a war of public perception. Every bit of detail from the family's finances to their personal histories is now widely known. And Kim Lee is being spoken of as a role model by people campaign against domestic violence.

FENG YUAN, ANTI-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NETWORK (translation): We witnessed many incidents of domestic violence while growing up but never understood the concept.

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: In China, the official figure is that one in four women are victims of domestic violence. But women's rights advocates say that is just the tip of the iceberg. And because there isn't any law against domestic violence, offenders often go unpunished even when women come forward.

LI YING, LAWYER (translation): Based on the cases I've handled, I realise that many people feel it is not right for them to interfere in domestic violence. They feel it is something private to be settled between husband and wife. The victim also feels that it's something shameful.

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Very few people have come forward seeking help even though domestic violence is thought to be common.

Chinese papers have carried reports of women shelters that have either remained empty for years or had very few people come through their doors. And many women who leave just don't know where to go.

When Kim Lee left her apartment just behind me she went straight to the police station but they didn't know how to handle her case.

LI YING (translation): The women's shelters are often placing to with homeless shelters. Many women feel as if they've been abandoned.

HUEY FERN TAY: Kim Lee says her youngest daughter, who witnessed the last beating, could not sleep for a month. This is what she drew when taken to see a psychologist.

(Picture is displayed)

All three of Kim Lee's daughters are now in the United States away from the media attention. No one knows when the court will rule on the custody dispute with her husband, but she says she has had overwhelming public support.

KIM LEE: I can't overstate how much the hugs on the street and the thumbs up from old in the ladies in the park, how much that gives me strength.

But at the same time I was not prepare to take my picture snapped when I go to buy a coke at the news stand. And I'm into the used to having TV cameras in my living room. It is not, it's not that comfortable, but sometimes important things aren't, so ..

HUEY FERN TAY: After years of pressure by campaigners against domestic violence, the government has agreed to look at drafting legislation criminal criminalising it.

The proposed law might be consider as soon as this year. It may look at imposing prison sentences for offenders but it has also been suggested they could be sent for re-education.

Women's rights activists are also pushing for punishments for judges and prosecutors who fail to properly pursue complaints.
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