The wife of Li Yang, the mainland celebrity English language teacher behind the Crazy English learning syndicate, has filed for divorce at the Chaoyang District People's Court, citing domestic violence.
Kim Lee, an American who has three daughters with Li, said she wanted full custody of the children and to split the family's wealth, China News Service reported yesterday.
Li, one of China's most flamboyant celebrities, founded the Crazy English language training system in 1994 with an emphasis on oral practice. It has attracted about 20 million followers on the mainland.
Li's abuse of his wife, which Lee claimed had been going on for more than a decade, came to light last month when she posted photos online of her bloodied and bruised face.
Amid a barrage of criticism, Li admitted to committing domestic violence and apologised to his wife. He said in television interviews that he married Lee to be part of a cross-cultural learning environment.
He also tried to play down the issue of domestic violence, saying a lot of Chinese men beat their wives.
A nationwide survey by the All-China Women's Federation in 2009 found that a third of Chinese homes have seen incidents of domestic abuse, with 85 per cent directed against women.
Guo Jianmei, a lawyer helping the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Aid Centre, said Lee had made the right decision, not because of the physical suffering she had endured but because of Li's attitude towards her and the family.
Guo said that if Li really felt guilty for what he had done, he could use his status to highlight the issue of domestic violence.
'But he apparently cares for nothing but his own image and went on TV shows and interviews to control the damage,' she said.
She said Lee is entitled to half of the family's wealth because the break-up of their marriage was her husband's fault.
However, she said Lee might find it difficult to collect evidence proving the exact amount the family owns, given Li's vast business interests.