Award-winning Chinese reporter’s account of years of domestic violence causes uproar on social media

Mandy Zuo
·4-min read

An award-winning former reporter has taken Chinese social media by storm after saying she suffered years of domestic violence at the hands of her husband.

In a detailed description posted on social media platform WeChat on Saturday, Ma Jinyu, who gave up her journalist career to marry a honey farmer in a remote county on the Tibetan Plateau nine years ago, accused her husband of frequently beating her, sometimes causing serious injury.

Her comments come amid a growing awareness of domestic abuse and follow widespread public outrage a few months ago after a social media personality died after being allegedly set on fire by her husband.

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Ma, who worked for some of China’s leading newspapers including The Beijing News and Southern People Weekly, said she had left her husband over two years ago and had taken the couple’s three children with her.

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She said she had chosen to speak out because she wanted to explain to the public why she left Guide county in Qinghai, where she and her husband Xie Chengde ran a successful honey farm that once featured on state television.

The authorities in Guide said they are now investigating the case following her accusations.

Xie, a Han Chinese who also goes by the Tibetan name Zhaxi, has denied all Ma’s accusations.

“[What she said] didn’t happen at all,” he told digital newspaper Jimu News. “I don’t know why she secretly took the three kids away. I was busy transporting goods that day,” he said.

He said they have not contacted each other since that day in July 2018, but have not divorced.

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Ma, who became a successful businesswoman selling honey and other local produce after marrying Xie and moving to his hometown in 2012, said domestic violence was common in the countryside. She said she had tried leaving her husband once before she left for good but had gone back the first time.

She also said her face was often left swollen and bruised because of Xie’s assaults.

In the worst incident, she said she suffered urinary incontinence and injuries to her eye and face after a prolonged beating in 2015 and needed hospital treatment.

“I didn’t call the police, not once, which maybe is the stupidest thing about me,” she said in the WeChat post entitled “The Other Lhamo”.

She was referring to the Tibetan vlogger Lhamo, who had over 720,000 followers on Chinese short-video app Douyin. She died in September after being set on fire in a case that triggered national outrage and a public debate about violence against women. Her husband has since been arrested on suspicion of murdering her.

Lhamo’s murder, allegedly at the hands of her husband, triggered widespread anger online. Photo: Douyin
Lhamo’s murder, allegedly at the hands of her husband, triggered widespread anger online. Photo: Douyin

Ma’s story has triggered a fresh round of discussion on the issue and has also led many Chinese web users to ask why a well-educated professional woman could keep silent about such brutal treatment for so long.

Lu Xiaoquan, a lawyer at the Beijing-based law firm Qianqian, which specialises in women’s rights, said people should have zero tolerance for domestic abuse.

“The occurrence of domestic violence is only related to the perpetrator’s original family, social and cultural environment, and the physical disparity between the two sides,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily linked to the social status or income [of either of them], but these factors can affect how domestic violence happens and how likely the victim is to seek assistance and escape.”

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Up to a third of all families in China are affected by domestic violence, according to the All-China Women’s Federation.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

China introduced its first domestic violence law in 2016, but awareness surrounding the issue has remained weak, activists say.

“It’s a worrying trend that while the anti-domestic violence law was enforced and the public became more sensitive to sexual violence, information regarding the issue from major search engines, news websites and related government agencies has dropped year by year,” a report published last April by women’s rights group Equality warned.

In the fourth year since the law took effect, only 815 pieces of information on the issue were available online, compared with over 3,200 pieces in the first year, the group found.

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