China’s highest court has made the rare decision to cancel the execution of 43-year old Li Yan, who was sentenced to death for murdering her abusive husband, according to a family member. Human Rights campaigners view this as a huge step up in the nationwide fight against domestic violence.
Li Yan’s brother Li Dehuai has reported that The Supreme People’s Court reversed its approval of the 2013 death sentence after receiving a letter sent by his sister from prison. SCMP reported that “Guo Jianmei, Li Yan’s lawyer, reached on Tuesday, said she has not been notified by the Supreme People’s Court about its decision”. Her brother also revealed that the decision was apparently made back in May, but is unsure why they had this change of heart.
Li’s trial was seen as a “landmark case” in the battle to get comprehensive legislation implemented for domestic violence cases. Li had reportedly been suffering domestic violence for a prolonged period of time and even reached out to the police and the All China Women’s Federation in Ziyang for support against her husband, Tan Yong in 2010 – but no avail. As the current law for domestic violence is extremely unclear in China, most cases tend to get shrugged off as ‘family conflict,’ leaving women stranded.
“Tan had reportedly beat Li, extinguished cigarettes on her face and locked her out on their balcony in winter” SCMP explained. So on November 3, 2010, when Tan, who was apparently drunk, kicked her and than threatened to shoot her with an air rifle she finally couldn’t take it anymore and shot him with another rifle, killing him. She claimed to have acted in self-defence, but it’s unclear, as she dismembered the body afterward too. We’re doubtful, but not surprised. Liwas later arrested for intentional homicide and sentenced to death.
Thousands of people were against the decision ruled by the court and signed petitions demanding that the violence endured by Li before the murder be taken into account.
Domestic violence is a huge issue in China, with surveys showing half the men in China abuse their partners. “In China, if a woman is repeatedly abused and kills the man reacting to the abuse, she will be sentenced to death,” explained John Kamm, the founder and director of Duihua Foundation – a US based legal rights watchdog.
Though this is an unfair and unequal law, this case does shed a ray of light on a pretty dark subject. As explained by John, “This ruling reverses the trend. I don’t think the [Sichuan] High Court will sentence Li Yan to death again”, which hopefully paints a brighter path for women in a similar position in the future.
[Image via Amnesty]
By Sophie Regan