Li Yang and Kim Lee in happier times.
Kim Lee, the American wife of Li Yang, the self-styled evangelist of the English language and founder of the Crazy English franchise, has filed for divorce at the Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing, demanding full custody of their three children and an equal split of the family’s wealth and property.
In a tweet on her Sina Weibo profile, which is now watched by some 61,000 followers, Kim said earlier this week, “‘Happiness will find me. I will leave the past behind me. Today my life begins. Divorce to court today.” Attached to the post was an image of a “reconciliation pact” signed by Li Yang in September to refrain from domestic violence in their future life together. Kim had earlier preferred to keep the family together, but her only prerequisite was for Li to seek counselling.
Not only has Li refused to attend therapy, he has also been giving media interviews to all and sundry, suggesting that China could use his case to push for the passing of anti-domestic violence legislation. At a recent talkshow in Shanghai, dance impresario and television personality Jin Xing slammed Li Yang for being an “exceedingly filthy and selfish man” and for milking the saga of its media opportunities for his own personal gain.
Li Yang has in previous interviews described his marriage as a cultural experiment. In one interview, he explained why he married Kim as follows:＂I found out that she came to China because she wanted to have babies with a Chinese man, and so I agreed. Our child grew up in the United States till she was about two. When we moved her to China, we discovered that she was very different from other two-year-old Chinese kids. She was very independent. So, in order to research American family life and education, I decided to marry her.”
He later went on to say the marriage “certainly wasn’t for love or romance” and that he had “decided to try it out simply because I wanted to know just how different American family life and education was.”
In the early days of the Crazy English story, Kim Lee made frequent appearances alongside Li Yang in teaching sessions and her marriage to him boosted his credentials as an English teacher and as a guru of Western culture in the eyes of the Chinese public. Li has since publicly accused Kim of sabotaging his career and image, arguing that a family’s dirty linen should not be washed in public.
Women’s rights activists pushing for the anti-domestic violence legislation have closely followed the saga and reached out to Kim Lee, who they hope can be the catalyst for their cause. Kim, for her part has said that she is unable to help others until she first helps herself. In an open letter to Feng Yuan of the China Anti-Domestic Violence Network, Kim lamented that she has failed Chinese women.
“I also realize that I have circumstances most Chinese women do not, my husband is outside traveling most of the time so I could remain safely in my home,” she added. ”Even if I could not remain safely at home, I have the option of returning to my own country. This is not a choice for Chinese women. I would feel deep regret if any woman spoke out and then became the victim of even greater violence because she chose to do so.”
The courtroom battle over what is due Kim, however, is going to be a long, protracted and nasty one. She has argued over Weibo that Li Yang did not build Crazy English alone, and vigorously fought public perception of herself as a “lonely housewife who didn’t understand her husband’s great mission” by posting pictures of textbooks used in the school written and edited by herself. In the meanwhile, Li Yang has also transferred property to his sister’s name, says Kim.
Previously on Shanghaiist
Li Yang of Crazy English accused of domestic violence by laowai wife
Li Yang of Crazy English to get dumped by wife?
Finally, a law to protect women against domestic violence?
Li Yang admits to hitting wife, now receiving professional help
Li Yang of Crazy English not quite repentant after all
Jin Xing to Li Yang: You’re an exceedingly filthy and selfish man