On the Kim Lee and Li Yang Domestic Violence Story

Kim Lee's bruises as posted on Weibo
Kim Lee's bruises put a new face on her cross-cultural marriage to the founder of "Crazy English," Li Yang.

Just last month, I discovered a new celebrity couple in the cross-cultural community of Chinese men and Western women — Li Yang, the founder of Crazy English, and Kim Lee, his American wife. If only it weren’t because of revelations that Li Yang beat and battered Kim for many years.

If you’re in China, chances are you heard the news long ago. How Kim brought up the domestic violence by posting photos of her bruised body on Sina’s Weibo. That Li Yang admitted hitting his wife to the public, but then offered an unrepentant response.

If there was a “model Yangxifu” award, Kim Lee deserves it. She courageously shared her private turmoil with the public, starting a national conversation on domestic violence and spurring the Chinese government to reconsider dormant domestic violence legislation.

But Kim’s relationship with Li Yang could easily play into some of the worst cross-cultural marriage nightmares — and, I might add, negative stereotypes of Chinese men.

Of course, I don’t fault Kim for anything. She did the right thing. Still, a celebrity couple in the community of Chinese men and Western women in love makes the headlines… and, unfortunately, it’s for domestic violence. I couldn’t help but wonder — will some people come away with the wrong kind of message?

I scanned the comment sections of the news and blogosphere coverage on Kim Lee and Li Yang, and so far, most readers see the story for what it is — from a sad commentary on the state of domestic violence in China, to a portrait of a man who embodies “Crazy” in the worst possible way. But those who choose to comment only represent a small percentage of the people reading the news. Which is to say, we’ll probably never really know just what impact — if any — the news has had on the image of Chinese men and Western women in love.

But I do know one thing — Kim Lee, you’ll always be part of the “Yangxifu sisterhood,” no matter what happens to your marriage. 😉

What do you think of the news of Kim Lee and Li Yang?

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33 Replies to “On the Kim Lee and Li Yang Domestic Violence Story”

  1. Unfortunately for every good person, there’s a jerk and an abuser. The guy I liked was a player although thank goodness that he lacked common sense. (He was Chinese,) I met him once, we started talking few months after we met, and continued on so. Few weeks ago I ended up talking to a girl who claimed she was his fiancee. (He gave her his skype name and password…) She confronted him about me and later on told me that he used me to learn English. (I would have helped him with English for free, he didn’t need to toy with my emotions like that…) Also she told me of another girl besides her and me that he was with.

    Just because I ran into that kind of jerk, it doesn’t mean I’ll think of Chinese or Asian men any less. If a Chinese guy likes me, I will still date him. From the stories, I hope that people will take away that not all Chinese or Asian men are like that. I have yet to find a good Chinese guy, but still considering how many are married to them, then there have to be good ones.

  2. I think at least here in the US, the stereotype of a Chinese male or for that matter any Asian male will always prevail, until some couple get serious, and their concerned or even racist parents and relatives will pull out the example of Li Yang. It is the Barrack Obama syndrome. Tea partiers will call him a Marxist some of the time, moslem radical at other times…but the code word is clear…cant say he is too black to be President. Now that he has ended up killing top terror operatives, they will revert back to his Marxist socialist agenda.

  3. If you’re stressed out at work or have family issues, please don’t hit a woman regardless of race. Keep on talking with each other and everything will be settled. I ‘m short tempered also but only for a few minutes. Women can be big in size but they are weak physcially. We have lots of battery cases here in America that involve all kinds of men from all ethnic groups. A person must exercise 4 to 5 times a week 1 hr each time to reduce the stress level. Guys , don’t ask me why I tell you to work out . Just do it and find out that you are calmer and think clearer and you won’t explode in any situation.

  4. That guy is one crazy horse indeed. Blaming cultural differences and everything else except himself. Probably the cultish adulation he receives from his captive English students has gone to his head. Man, does he not need help. But I doubt he will change. What Kim should have done is to have given him a taste of his madness and left with the kids. Unfortunately, love takes time to measure up to reality.

  5. Your point is right on.
    I knew Li Yang’s craziness several years ago when he was visiting my hometown. I remember him giving a speech to secondary school students(and their parents of course). Asking 500+ people to shout out ‘I want to learn English’ seems a bit ‘trying too hard’ to me. It also reminds me of some bad memories of the cultural revolution era.

    Anyway, I currently live in Australia as an international student. Now the biggest concern for me is that he might’ve made it harder for me to deal with the Asian man stereotypes, well, if oz girls care enough to read Chinese news.

    Although I do hear a lot of the small p**s & manhood rumour , I’ve never heard anyone saying ‘asian men beat their wives’. These stereotypes pretty much label asian men as undateable, especially those who are not raised in Australia/ New Zealand.

  6. This case is not about cultural differences between Chinese and westeners. This is simply called domestic violence and battery. If you guys live in America, you will see on the news all the time about men ( caucasian, blacks ,etc) beating women up. Last month, one banker on the show called ” Beverly Housewives ?” , brutally hurt his wife and he committed suicide and both of them are caucasians.OJ simpson’s deceased wife was beaten up by him ? You see famous celebrities beat up their wives/ gfs all the time and what do you call that then????? Just because you have Li Yang ‘s wife who is white and this turns into a sterotype for ASian men ?? This is pathetic. If I have a sister like Kim Lee who is beaten up by Li Yang , I will kick his ass. I know SOME women have big mouth and they just don’t know when to stop bad mouthing on something. Sometimes, SOME men get irritated by that and go INSANE on them but that doesn’t give men the right to beat up vulnerable women like that. You know even a skinny ass man can hurt 10 big women. Think about it!!!

  7. Clem thinks a lot like the way I do, the way Li Yang had to be so crazy about English to even organize those crazy rallies, yes, a lot like the Cultural Revolution, very unpleasant memories indeed. And look, what does he do to his wife? I pray they don’t have children and I pray they divorce right now. And no, Clem, Western women aren’t going to be thinking that all Chinese guys hurt their Western wives. The reason being this is just so astounding, I mean, I never in my life heard of this, a Chinese guy marries a Western girl and then does this to her!?!? But I hear all the time about Western guys abusing Western girls!!!

  8. @Li Lan “The reason being this is just so astounding, I mean, I never in my life heard of this, a Chinese guy marries a Western girl and then does this to her!?!? But I hear all the time about Western guys abusing Western girls!!!”

    Domestic violence is far less talked about in China than in, for example, New Zealand (don’t know about other countries, Western or otherwise). Where I’m from there was a huge campaign starting, from memory, in the ’80s, to end domestic violence, and a large part of that was simply talking about it, out loud, in the media – making people aware of the issue and their rights and how they can get protection when necessary. In my experience, Chinese people are aware of domestic violence, but it’s a “family issue” not discussed in public for fear of losing face, for the police “it’s just a domestic”, none of their business (an attitude in NZ we had to reverse as part of the campaign against domestic violence). A statistic I read in connection to the Kim Lee/Li Yang case said that domestic violence is a problem in a third of Chinese families, with 90% of the victims being women. There are organisations (All China Women’s Federation and it’s local branches and affiliates, for example) working on this issue. If any good can come out of Kim Lee’s suffering, then hopefully her bravery can give the publicity boost to this issue that it needs, helping those organisations in their struggle to protect women.

  9. Yes, Chris is right, speaking out and making people aware of the issue is a huge step forward. Domestic violence is a problem in every country and culture and it needs to be stopped.

  10. Has anyone heard if she will leave him? For an abused woman, I think that will take more courage for her to remove herself and her children from that environment.

  11. While living in Northeast China I have witnessed maybe 8+ incidents of public beatings of women on the street in broad daylight, and nobody bats an eyelid. From what I’ve heard Northern men are more aggressive than their Southern counterparts. What really angered and alarmed me is that instead of looking at this guy, many Chinese people and netizens criticised KIM for speaking out about getting beaten by Li Yang, saying that she shamed the family, was aiming to make Chinese men look bad and was just trying to get sympathy to bring down his empire…since revealing ‘private domestic situations’ is a big loss of the ‘face culture’ that is so prevalent in China.
    Look what he said: ‘”Our problem involves character and cultural differences…I hit her sometimes but I never thought she would make it public since it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders.’ WTF.

    “A husband beating his own wife cannot be called a problem, some of my friends have told me. Many Chinese people think the same and they prefer to keep silent because they believe it is simply family business not to be disclosed.”

    That seriously worries me. It makes me wonder how many other women are going through the same thing, without the courage to speak up, for fear of conflict and divorce shaming their family. Makes me sick.

  12. too bad she has to work out the issues with him and have him ‘rehabilitated cos there are the kids , she had with him… if not, she would have just leave him for good….

  13. @Valentina,
    many Chinese people and netizens criticised KIM for speaking out about getting beaten by Li Yang
    #End Quote#

    Not really, at least according to Weibo(the Chinese twitter), many, if not the majority, Chinese netizens(including his subscribers) still criticised him and left strongly negative comments after he had apologised.

    Here is the link(13,000 comments + 19,00 retweets):


    If you couldn’t read Chinese, please use Google translator. The result is still readable 🙂

  14. It’s sad that things like these happen. Also the fact that this raises more people’s opinion on Asian guys and being wife-beaters.
    I wish everything wasn’t about stereotypes, but it’s how always things will be…

    Why can’t we all be caring and not speak our minds? -sigh- oh well, that’s humans free will.

  15. 20 something yrs ago, we had countless tv commericals on women being abused by their men in America. It was very educational. I think China has to follow that path soon because the society is changing over there. Some people are abusive and some are not like any other men. You mean white men don’t beat wives /gfs? It’s just that white women know how to look for help and run away . For Asian women, it’s a different story. MOST Asian women will stick it out for their kids, parents, etc so they will stay with their men a little longer. What are you talking about that asian men are wife beaters? I have lots of asian friends and MOST asian men are the victims of abuse. They verbally fight but they didn’t physcially go at each other or anything like that. It is very normal to argue in a relationship. I think that if a woman constantly irritates a man on something silly again and again. He doesn’t know how to make her stop so for some men this is the end result. In our relationship, we just know when to SHUT THE HELL UP sometimes when one of us are not having a good day/month. We must have balance in everything in our relationship like “Ying Yang”. Can you imagine two people arguing with their veins on their necks popping out ? It’s always wise for either one of you to cool down and let your husband or wife talks and wait for 3 hrs later or the next day to see if you or she will say sorry . For yrs , I’ve tried again and again to conquer my anger and hyper attitude. Yes, a very nice guy like me can have temper like any men out there. I control it by exercising and thinking /doing happy things all the time. Let me tell you men out there right now that you need to control your anger and temper asap or else someone will beat you up. I wish you guys understand what I’m talking about on controlling yourself and your temper. It’s very hard I can assure when you have rage. Anyway good luck

  16. I grew up in a semi-small city in the US Midwest. The crime was relatively standard for it’s size but domestic abuse was the biggest social problem in my area. Even though the place was predominately white-Caucasian, this issue was present in all ethnic groups. I am quite close with several people living throughout the country, and I can tell you this; it’s only a very very very small minority out there (at least in the US) who will believe unconditionally in the “all” Asian men equals wife beaters stereotype. The vast majority of people there already know that all groups of people are affected by this. Mostly due to the free flow of information about this issue, how serious the law treats these cases, and it’s widespread enough where using stereotypes are meaningless.

    I don’t know how the law works for domestic abuse in China, both in theory and reality. Besides cultural (cultural being a vague term here, because it varies family to family, according to my friends from Mainland China), this will probably be one area to work in. At least, that’s my perspective.

  17. This is so sad, but understandable. China is still largely a very backward country (It is still largely a 3rd world country roughly on par with Thailand ! – also in terms of rule of law, social conventions to respect independent human rights (largely due to the fact China is still largely an agrarian society in mindset, while still transforming itself to a industrialized society). As it is known the laws regarding domestic violence is still in the draft. Public awareness of such issue is still “hush hush” amongst general population (even though decades ago women was championed by the communist party). I really hope Kim’s action will bring about the change, giving more women the courage to speak out and eventually a social awareness to this issue.

    About Li Yang, he sounds like a complete nutjob, with a huge inferiority complex. He overcompensate it by being a egoistical prick and for whatever the reason beyond my understanding, women in general are attract to men like that. I know I am generalizing but
    my past experience seems to indicate men who are being a prick, being a “rebel”, being a complete dangerous nutjob, is the quality most women are looking for!! I discovered that women are attracted to “bad boys” in prisons (murderers and rapists) and write them and even marry them.

    A series of novels and a movie on Vampires geared at young females resonates with Hybristophilia.

    Perhaps there is a parallel with narcissists and their victims; the vampire only has to look dangerous and menacing to attract women to him. Are these women submissive victims or are they narcissist enablers who are attracted to power?

    Can someone just explains to me why good girls like “bad” boys and not nice guys? Is it because nice guys are just boring / not exciting enough to be with? I am pretty at loss to be honest.

  18. Jack,

    Nice guys finish first at the end financially and we are more stabled than bad guys. Nice guys know how to maintain a healthy relationship, family and marriage. We don’t abuse our bodies with drugs, cigarettes and other addictions. Jack, I’m a nice guy with reasons but I don’t like bad guys bullying others because nice guys like me can counter attack. I was taught to be nice to whoever is nice to you and treat them with respects. I don’t know I only see bad guys who are either jobless , useless, got shot (died) or wasting time with their lives. Smart women pick nice guys, dumb women pick bad guys. guess which woman will have a happier life?

  19. Bruce,
    Yeh, but I always see women complained about not being able to find “nice guys” LOL! And they would STILL go for those cocky, abusive men while complaining about it. Its all very confusing to the “nice guys” as to what women want.

  20. I mean, just look at Kim Lee. She is battered and abused by her cocky and abusive nutjob of a husband Li Yang who OBVIOUSLY doesn’t love her (even stated publicly in interview), and YET, SHE STILL DESIRES and WANTS TO BE BACK WITH HIM. LOL! What the F.

    And I have seen this kind of relationships happening very often through out my life (my father mentally abuse my mother, while my uncle physically abused my aunt similar to what Kim Lee has gone through), and I have always HATED men with such behaviors and swear never to do such to anyone. And yet, A LOT of girls I know (including my ex) continue to be attracted to such men. It feels beyond frustrating to know someone you love are abused and being held emotionally captive by these type of men.

    My understanding is that, women in general are attracted to these type of men because they exhibit the behavior (or extrude the aura) of the “alpha male” – cocky, abusive, arrogant. The “nice guys” are generally viewed as the “Beta”, timid, submissive, qualities that women in general do not look for in a mate. Its sad but it just seems true majority of the time.

  21. Well,

    You can be like me between nice and bad :). Does timid mean soft like a piece of log? Then of course, MOST women don’t want that. My wife said I have personality that is out of the ordinary. Sometimes, I’m quiet , soft, timid and gentle and sometimes wild , rough , rude but I take full responsibility on what I say or how I behave. It’s like a roller coaster ride or like the fluctation of stock markets , up and down . I have all kinds of friends who are bad guys and nice guys. I always want to be a bad ass guy and I can be but my heart says ” it’s easy to be bad ,but it’s extremely difficult to be a good, nice guy” . Jack, you have to understand that you can be on the both sides and your woman will love you!! That’s why I can make friends easily because I can adjust to what they like and know their personalities. You can talk about planting flowers to making bombs. I will talk with almost anybody. Women want men to lead them sometimes on almost anything like vacations, investments, home improvements etc. Show those women what you can do in all catergories and of course they will compare with other friends’ husbands/bfs. Now, they will know that they are having great men in their lives once they do the thinkings. Looks can be deceiving! Just don’t irritate each other constantly then we’ll be fine. I don’t believe in hitting a woman and I know what leads to domestic violence. I always say ” nobody can argue in my house, take all your problems out of this peaceful home” . You know life is very stressful due to our jobs and families. If you men out there have boiling blood running your entire body, freaking warm up with 225lbs bench press or chop down a tree or dig the whole yard up to release some stress and tension. There is NO SOLUTION for beating up your wife and the problem is not solved yet. The only way to solve any problem is to relieve your stress and talk it out and THIS WILL TAKE TIME PERIOD. Talk is cheap man you must apply it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. @ Jack :

    It’s not that these women love the bad boys, it’s because they have very low self-esteem , they think that no other guy will treat them well or love them. They think this is the best they can get. You would never believe their level of insecurity and sense of worthlessness. And they never admit it. They will tell you excuses they have convinced themselves of.

    This is particularly true of western women. Women in other parts of the world have no choice and long for the freedom and women- rights that western women give up as a result of their insecurity.

  23. It occurs to me that it’s about time for us men to stop talking about whehter women want bad boys or nice guys and turn the conversation back to the women. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

  24. I’m sure if you searched a bit more there must also be cases of White, or Chinese or Black men beating up their chinese wife. Domestic violence happens everywhere regardless of whether its a cross cultural marriage

  25. Chinese guy here, I heared of him long time ago when I just started to learn English, I thought then he’ws a crazy one and still think so today, he’s full of himself and the crazy english horseshit, can’t believe he has many fans, I remember once he was doing a TV show and in the end everyone who’s at the show will leave something as a personal gift and the show will one day have a public bidding of all the gifts people left there to rise funds for charity, although i don’t believe there is true charity in China, but still, he reinforced on the show that anyone bidding his gift will have to start from at least 100,000 and I thought wtf, is his lil gift or him actually worth anything near that? Or he thought big of himself or he was playin’ dumb and people just don’t see, what a pricky prick he is!

  26. I have worked for the great man Li Yang, and as a young American teacher, I want to say what a good experience that was.

    I was able to hire and fire, pick and choose, my own teams of fresh attractive teachers, mostly in their twenties, and throw out all the sad applications from those older washed up teachers in their forties and fifties that litter up the GZ teaching scene, as well as most of China, due to the great need here for ESL teachers. My teams were mostly handsome guys in their twenties, what fun.

    In the USA, I would not have been able to use gender, race, or age, so freely in hiring and firing.

    This was not in the GZ area. To protect our privacy, I will not say which area.

    Li Yang is open minded in many ways.

    My one small criticism is that his wife is claiming money based on the ESL books they wrote, these books abound in tiny errors, No Pain, No Gains, This should be No Pain, No Gain. She is a mother of 3 young kids, he is a busy businessman. They need someone to edit their books, and improve them.

    The product line is a mess, with an oversupply here and there of the same stuff, not to mention the tacky looking covers and appalling designs. Li Yang could be making even more money if he would trim this up. I myself studied business methodology before hitting the wonderful China ESL scene.

    She had a lovely large home, a cook, a cleaner, chauffeured cars, and still the anxiety of an unhappy marriage permeated their life.

    Let’s wish them both well, though I did want to point out how fair and generous Li Yang is in the eyes of this bright and ambitious American woman.

  27. I live in Chaoyang Park- Beijing. I would like to talk with Kim! I have the same situation of her. I also have a little baby who suffer nightmares every night. Let me connect with her urgent.

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