Hong Mei’s last post on the popular messaging app WeChat is dated April 5, 2016: “I wish all lovers could just hold each other’s hands and grow old together.”
The next day, the 40-year-old journalist died of injuries inflicted by her husband. The couple had one son, who was 13 years old at the time.
Jin Zhu, Hong’s spouse, received a suspended death sentence on Monday.
The case, heard by the Ordos City Intermediate People’s Court in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, came just one year after the country’s first anti-domestic violence law took effect in March 2016.
It’s estimated that over 90 million married women regularly face domestic violence in China; this statistic does not take into account violence against children or the elderly, or between unmarried partners. A 2016 survey of 466 HIV-positive women found that almost half were victims of domestic violence.
As early as 2001, Hong tried to divorce Jin, who often became abusive after drinking. Hong even had a miscarriage as a result of the abuse. In another incident in 2013, she was hospitalized with a fractured skull, a potentially life-threatening injury.
Court documents obtained by Sixth Tone include accounts from friends, colleagues, neighbors, and the couple’s teenage son attesting to Jin’s record of domestic violence. However, the couple decided to stay together after Jin promised to change his behavior.
In April last year, Hong returned home later than Jin expected from a gathering of friends, and he reacted violently. The next day, Hong was beaten again by Jin after he drank a large volume of baijiu, a highly alcoholic spirit. Despite receiving emergency medical treatment, Hong didn’t survive the attack.
The Ordos Intermediate People’s Court found Jin guilty of intentional assault. At the court’s first hearing on Dec. 20, 2016, the defendant claimed he had “blacked out” from drinking alcohol. Jin received a death sentence with a two-year reprieve.
Hong’s death shocked the nation, which has seen an increase in the reporting of domestic violence cases in recent years.
An article published by The Beijing Times on March 1 said that the Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing had issued 24 restraining orders since China’s domestic violence law was enacted last year — with 14 of the orders directly related to domestic abuse.
According to an article in the Party newspaper People’s Daily on Tuesday, a community organization in southwestern China’s Yunnan province reported that in 2016, after the domestic violence law took effect, the number of women who came in seeking help on their own initiative increased 54 percent from 2015.
Cao Chunfeng, Hong’s lawyer, told The Paper — Sixth Tone’s sister publication — that he hopes this case will raise awareness about domestic violence in a nation where many people are still unfamiliar with restraining orders and other legal protections.
“As a journalist with a high level of education, she still didn’t use the law to protect herself,” Cao said.
Editor: August Rick.
(Header image: E+/VCG)