Nearly six months after calling out her ex-husband, the founder of popular education company Crazy English, for allegedly abusing their children, anti-domestic violence icon Kim Lee said her ex-husband had filed a lawsuit against her.
On Sunday, Lee wrote on her microblogging account Weibo that she had received a legal notice from a Beijing court, saying her ex-husband Li Yang had sued her. Last August, the American national, who had become the face of China’s anti-domestic violence crusade a decade ago for calling out and later suing her then-husband, had shared details of his alleged abuses against their children in a 30-second video clip.
“I didn’t know you could be prosecuted for telling the truth,” she wrote in a post which is now unavailable on her account. “I think the lawsuit is part of domestic violence … The abusers always try to find some way to continue to control you.”
The post, screenshots of which circulated online, attached a handwritten letter by their two daughters accusing their father of “punching … choking … slapping … and pulling hair.”
Li had then responded that the video Lee shared in August was “edited with malicious intent.”
On Monday, Li’s legal representative, Zhou Zhaocheng, confirmed on Weibo that his client was suing Kim Lee for a “dispute over network infringement liability.” The lawyer denied Li was violent toward his daughters, adding that he suffered abuse from online trolls and financial loss after Lee’s allegations surfaced.
“It was a divorced father’s normal disciplinary behavior toward his daughters, and there was no domestic violence,” Zhou told Sixth Tone. He said the dispute was due to “the difference between Chinese and Western cultures and different parenting styles.”
The lawyer added that he hoped the lawsuit could move forward “the legislation on family disciplinary rights” to help clarify the extent to which a parent could punish or discipline their child.
Zhou said his client was also suing social media companies Weibo and Toutiao for the same reasons, along with his ex-wife. The Beijing Internet Court will hear the case on March 17.
Lin Shuang, an anti-domestic violence campaigner who assisted Lee in her initial lawsuit between 2012 and 2013, said she notices a “familiar trope” in the current case.
“As domestic violence often occurs in private and sudden situations, it is difficult for victims to gather enough evidence immediately,” she said. “Some victims choose to expose their experiences in public, and for many of them, this may even be the only way to seek justice, which in turn becomes the basis for the abuser to sue the victim for reputation violations.”
China’s landmark anti-domestic violence law came into effect in 2016, which some experts believe was partly pushed forward by Lee’s case. A Beijing court then ruled in favor of Lee, ordering the defendant to pay 50,000 yuan ($7,850) in compensation and granting the plaintiff a protection order.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Left: Kim Lee during a trial in Beijing, Feb. 3, 2013; right: Li Yang during a speech in Fuzhou, Fujian province, June 17, 2015. People Visual)