Test case sets precedent
Didi Kirsten Tatlow
Since its inception in 1997, the Network (Research Centre) for Combating Domestic Violence has taken on 15 test cases of domestic violence in an effort to draw attention to the problem and establish legal precedents.
One of the cases involved a woman surnamed Liu from Hebei province. According to an account published by the centre in September, Liu divorced her husband, surnamed Zhu, in 1997, after a violent, 19-year marriage, in which Liu was regularly bedridden with injuries. Police ignored Liu's appeals for help, saying it was a domestic affair.
Zhu agreed to a divorce on condition Liu gave up all her property and raised their child alone. She accepted.
After a remarriage in 1998, and an ensuing divorce, the violence continued, with Zhu threatening Liu's family, demanding money and raping her in front of a third person.
Liu strangled him, enlisting the help of three people, including her father.
Sentenced to death, she appealed, and the centre took up her case. Arguing that Liu acted out of 'justifiable defence', lawyers won her a reprieve after what they described as a 'great effort' in court. Liu's sentence was reduced to five years.
The case had a huge impact in Chinese legal circles, as it was the first time the law recognised a causal link between Liu's act and domestic violence.