Li Yang, the self-styled evangelist of the English language who’s known around China for his high energy, high intensity Crazy English lessons, is in trouble.
A woman, believed to be his American wife Kim Lee, has gone on Sina Weibo to accuse him of domestic violence, and she has the pictures to prove it.
Last Wednesday, the woman began by posting a picture of her swollen forehead along with the comment “I love losing my face = I love hitting my wife’s face?”. The comment was sent as a post in response to a weib by Li Yang exhorting his 570,000 Weibo followers to “enjoy losing face”, “enjoy making mistakes” and “enjoy being laughed at” because “the more mistakes you make, the more progress you will make”.
The following day, she posted a picture of her bruised knees, telling Li Yang to “Love China, love yourself, do not use violence toward me in front of our child.”.
On Saturday, she uploaded another picture of her swollen forehead, as she mused, “It would be easier if love had just disappeared the minute that your hand struck my face, but it did not. Seeing that you were having make up applied for TV appearance while I was in hospital hurts more than your slamming my head on the floor.”
Yesterday’s picture of her injured ear was equally damning, but even more heartbreaking was her weib. “Li Yang, you need help. Domestic violence is a serious problem,” she said in her post. “I am worried for the future of my husband and my family. Your children need their dad. I don’t know what to do! I love you.”
While Li Yang was the love of her life, apparently to him, she was just a trophy laowai wife that he saw fit to keep by his side to give credibility to the Crazy English empire that he was building.
One commenter said to her, in a knowing tone, “I dont know if you love him when you two were dating, as i know, he dont love you, never.”
She responded, “I know now. He said this in tv/magazine interviews, too. Privately told me it was just to promote his image. I know the truth. The truth is painful sometimes.”
A 2008 report by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker details how the two met:
Li was teaching in the northern coal city of Jilin, in June, 1999, when he met Kim Lee, a tall, confident brunette from Florida who had been sent by the Miami teachers’ union on a research trip to study foreign-language teaching practices. When Li introduced himself, he joked that he was a computer engineer from California. Kim brushed him off. He then approached her again, this time with the truth. “He said, ‘I’m just kidding. I’m really an English teacher, and I’ve never even been to America,’ ” Kim recalls. “So, at this point, I just think this guy is a nut job.”
Within days, Kim was teaching beside Li onstage. They had a natural rapport. Her dry wit and all-American looks were the perfect foil: an American Alice Kramden to his Chinese Ralph. They married four years later, in Las Vegas.
Often resembling more like a pentecostal preacher on steroids than an English teacher, Li Yang fills his Crazy English sessions with a heady brew of nationalism (the company’s slogan is “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!”) and motivational mumbo-jumbo (students are often made to yell “I can totally conquer English! I am no longer a slave to English! I am its master!”).
Students pay as much as 12,000 yuan for a “platinum seat” and 18,000 yuan for a “diamond seat” to attend 10-day intensive English training camps where Li pumps his fists in the air as he tells participants it’s important to master English because “we pity foreigners for not being able to master Chinese” and “they don’t want China to become powerful”.
In 2007, photos of 3,000 middle school students in Baotou, Inner Mongolia kowtowing to him went viral on the Internet, sparking widespread condemnation of his cult-like tactics.
Li has so far not responded to the accusations of domestic violence. Watch this space.