Abuse was a ‘family matter,’ it it doesn’t live


Lhamo, a Tibetan farmer from southwestern China, spent most of his life outdoors and shared it online, posting videos of himself cooking, singing and picking herbs in the mountains surrounding his village. By this fall, she had about 200,000 followers, many of whom described her as cheerful and hardworking.

More than 400 of them were watching one evening in mid-September, with 30-year-old Ms. Lhamo streaming live video from her kitchen on Doyin, the Chinese version of the Ticketock app. Suddenly, a man stormed in and Ms. Lhamo screamed. Then the screen went dark.

When Ms. Lhamo’s sister Dolma arrived at the hospital a few hours later, she found Ms. Lhamo struggling to breathe, her body ablaze. Police in Jinchuan County, where she lived, are investigating Ms. Lamo’s ex-husband on suspicion that he dipped her with gasoline and set her on fire.

“She looked like a piece of charcoal,” said Ms. Dolma, who goes by a name with her sister and several other Tibetans. “He burned almost all his skin.”

In July, a man was arrested in the eastern city of Hangzhou on suspicion of killing his wife, as his remains were found in a communal septic tank. At the end of last month, video footage went viral, showing a man in Shanxi Province beating his wife, who died his wife.

According to Beijing Equality, a women’s rights group, more than 900 women have died at the hands of their husbands or partners since China’s law against domestic violence was enacted in 2016.

The domestic violence law promised easy access to curb police investigations and orders, but enforcement is flawed and punishment is mild in a society that stigmas divorce and pressures victims to remain silent. Activists say that many police officers are not properly trained to handle cases of domestic violence. In the country where Ms. Lhamo was, victims often lack social support networks and are less educated about their rights.

Just a day after Ms. Lhamo’s death, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said at a UN conference on women that “protecting women’s rights and interests should become a national commitment.”

The speech seized on the Chinese Internet. And soon, people were calling for strengthening the domestic violence law using the hashtag #LhamoAct. Within a day, the hashtag was censored on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms. Other hashtags condemned the police’s failure to stop Ms. Lamo’s murder, including #StopNotActing and #PunishNotActing.

Van Miaoyan, a women’s rights lawyer in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, said she hoped that Ms. Lhamo’s case would lead to better enforcement of the law.

“But before we make progress on law enforcement, why does it take a tragedy and victim to sacrifice ourselves in such a bloody way?” he said.

Ms. Lhamo was from a remote village in the region of Aba, called Ngaba by Tibetans. Born in poverty, he made herbs that live in the mountains. As a child, she was kind and optimistic, her sister said. When Ms. Lhamo was 18, she met a person named Tang Lu from a nearby village. Before long they were married, and Ms. Lhamo moved in with her family and gave birth to two boys, now 3 and 12.

Ms Dolma said that she had seen bruises on her sister’s face and body several times. Ms. Lhamo often ran to her father’s home to recover from her injuries, which Ms. Dolma said was a dislocated elbow.

Mr. Tang did not respond to several messages on his Doyin account. Ms Dolma said she did not have phone numbers for her or her relatives.

Ms. Lhamo divorced Mr. Tang in March. But she immediately pushed him to remarry, with Ms. Dolma saying she would threaten to kill her children if she refused. Ms Lhamo twice called police but ignored her pleas for help, her sister said. The couple remarried.

Two weeks later, when Mr. Tango again went to the police after trying to hurt Mr. and Dolma, authorities said that since he had chosen to remarry her, “this is your personal family matter.” According to the officer, according to Ms. Dolma, there was nothing she could do.

The Jinchuan County Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

In May, Ms. Dolma said, Mr. Tang tried to kill Ms. Lhamo and threatened her with a knife.

She sought help from the local chapter of the All-China Women’s Federation, a government agency to protect women’s rights. Ms Dolma said her sister later cried, saying that when an officer dismissed her injuries, she said the other women were worse.

An employee of the Jinchuan County Women’s Federation confirmed that Ms. Lhamo visited the office and said there was an investigation underway.

Ms. Lhamo refused to give up, Ms. Dolma said. She again applied for divorce and hid from relatives while awaiting court approval.

In early June, Mr. Tang went to Ms. Dolma’s house in search of Ms. Lhamo. When Ms. Dolma did not tell him where her sister was, he hit her in her left eye. According to a copy of a medical report seen by The New York Times, Ms. Dolma was hospitalized for about two weeks for a fracture. She said that she reported the incident to the police, but they only questioned Mr. Tang and let him go.

After a court allowed the couple’s second divorce a few weeks later, Mr. Tang granted full custody of both of his sons. Ms. Lhamo spent most of the summer deep in the mountains picking herbs. On September 12, two days before the attack, which would kill her, she posted a video stating that she was coming home.

Mr Tang, who was also severely burned, is being investigated on suspicion of murder. This is a cold comfort for Ms. Dolma.

“Now it’s too late to talk about these things,” she said. “If they had taken it seriously at that time and disciplined or punished it, we would not have been in this situation today.”

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