China’s Lawmakers Debate Breakthrough Domestic Violence Law

First proposed in 2012

China’s lawmakers at the National People’s Congress this week are looking at introducing a domestic violence bill that would protect some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

Violence in the home is rarely discussed publicly in China, making the debate somewhat of a breakthrough in a socially conservative country. It became a hot topic after the divorce of a high profile English teacher Li Yang, who mesmerized millions in China with his Crazy English program, and his American wife Kim Lee. Lee had accused Li of repeatedly beating her, and even posted photos to Sina’s Weibo microblogging service.

Despite being quite high profile at the time, many Chinese people are unclear if domestic violence is morally or legally wrong. The draft legislation makes clear that violence between married couples would not be tolerated. To drive the point home, state-run newspaper Global Times reported it this way:

If you are in a poor mood with which you vent upon your son or wife/husband by beating them, or unintentionally hit them, or if you want to demonstrate your authority within the family by oppressing your child and spouse through economic and mental means, then you are in violation of (this law)!

The bill appears to have hit a bottleneck due to problems on how to define “domestic violence”. Some rights groups claim the definition doesn’t go far enough, and should include couples who live together but aren’t married, as well as same sex couples. They also say domestic violence should include sexual or economic abuse.

Presiding judge Yang Wanming said that domestic violence is on the rise, and is a threat to social harmony. A women’s association in China said in 2005 that about 30 percent of China’s 270 million families experience domestic violence.

Eighty countries have specific anti-domestic violence laws on the books. Until families can be safe and receive the protection they need, victims looking for help in China can always call the China Women’s Hotline at 12338.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor