Outcry over Sichuan woman's death sentence for killing abusive husband

Lawyers and activists call for reversal of sentence against woman who killed her husband while being beaten after two years of spousal abuse

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 5:05am

More than 400 lawyers and women's rights activists have sent a petition letter to the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate calling for the reversal of a death sentence that was handed down to a Sichuan woman who killed her husband after suffering months of domestic violence.

Li Yan, from Anyue county in Ziyang , quarrelled with her drunken husband on the night of November 3, 2010. He threatened to shoot her in the buttocks with an air rifle while she was washing dishes at their home, and then began kicking her.

Li, 42, then hit her husband twice with another gun that she had grabbed from nearby, accidentally killing him.

She dismembered his corpse, throwing most of his body parts in a public toilet and a dyke, before telling a friend about the killing. The friend alerted the police.

Li was sentenced to death by the Ziyang Intermediate People's Court and lost her appeal at the Sichuan Higher People's Court in August. The Supreme People's Court authorised her execution this month.

Teng Biao , director of China Against Death Penalty who launched the petition campaign, said they were calling on the judiciary to re-examine the domestic violence that led to the killing and take it into full account in a new decision showing due respect for human life.

He said the death sentence was flawed because it failed to take account of complaints Li had lodged with the local women's federation and statements she gave to police in the months before the killing, as well as testimony from her neighbours, which all pointed to her having been a victim of domestic violence since the couple married about two years prior to the fatal incident.

"She had no excuse to kill her husband, but she's nothing like a cold-blooded killer who planned the killing," Teng said.

Amnesty International said Li's husband, Tan Yong, frequently beat her, and had cut off one of her fingers, stubbed cigarettes out on her face and locked her outside on the balcony of their apartment for several hours in freezing weather while she was wearing little clothing.

Feng Yuan , from the China Anti-Domestic Violence Network, said she had supported the petition letter because Li was not given a fair trial and her execution would do little good for the fight against domestic violence on the mainland.

"Her tragedy should serve as a resounding wake-up call to the public, because we'll continue to see such tragedies happen if a preventative mechanism is not put in place offering victims of domestic violence timely help before violence gets out of control," she said.

"We'll either see a desperate wife kill her husband, or a husband kill his wife as he gets more violent," Feng added.