I don’t think that this problem is exclusive to China but I’ve lived all over the world, and it’s the only country where I’ve seen regular domestic violence on the streets – during the day, and not alcohol motivated.
A few days ago I was walking down to Louhu subway station, and there was a Chinese guy (about my size – and I’m not small) administering a good slap to his girlfriend for some minor misdemeanour. Hundreds of people walked past as this poor girl wept and her boyfriend carried on his beating. Not one stopped, in fact a police officer nearby turned his back deliberately so he didn’t have to do anything.
Did I intervene? No. This is one of those areas where an intervention almost always makes things worse. If you want a kicking then get involved, it probably won’t be him that hurts you – it will be her scratching your eyes out for criticizing her bullying abusive partner. Sadly, this wasn’t a one off occasion either – I’d estimate that I’ve seen over 100 of these scenes in the 3 years I’ve been in China.
The China Law Institute estimates that over 1/3rd of Chinese women are regularly beaten by their partners, and that far more are subject to occasional violence or emotional beatings. China Daily acknowledged this was a huge problem back in 2009.
So given that the problem is well understood and acknowledged – what’s being done about it? Well, truthfully not a heck of a lot. As the public beatings I’ve seen can attest to – nobody wants to actually stop the problem. In fact the first conviction for domestic violence in China was in 2008. That’s right – in a country where one in three women is slapped about daily – it took until late last decade for a single perpetrator to be punished.
There’s a lot of publicity on the issue from the Chinese side that pretends this only happens in the country but my eyes say different. As does this story of a well-to-do Chinese businessman who beat his American wife and then found himself running in circles to do anything but apologise when she went public. In fact Li Yang said this in a public interview; “She ruined my career and my image, which I have spent 20 years building.” What an extraordinarily unlovely chap in a world full of nasty folks.
There are annual calls for reviews to the law in order to better protect China’s women, but at the moment they remain pretty much unheeded.
I’ve been pretty careful in this post to avoid a prolonged discussion of what exactly domestic abuse is but according to the All-China Women’s Federation it includes verbal humiliation, physical assault, deprivation of freedom, confiscation of income and marital rape.
Sorry to be depressing this evening, but there’s nothing funny about this or my topic for tomorrow either. I’ll spare you the gory details until then.