Society

Till death two us part

The death of an actress highlights the problem of domestic violence

On their wedding day: Bai Jing with Zhou Chenghai

Love, deceit, and murder: the tale of Bai Jing, China’s best-known kung-fu actress seems to have all the elements that would spawn a successful script or even a TV show.

Last week the 29 year-old actress – who was hailed to be the next Michelle Yeoh – was killed in a domestic dispute with her husband Zhou Chenghai. Zhou, a wealthy business tycoon, committed suicide after he stabbed his wife in their apartment in Beijing last Tuesday. Earlier reports say the billionaire businessman had previously divorced his first wife to be with the actress and had made large investments in Bai’s acting career, says 21CN Business Herald.

Ju Chunlei, an entertainment industry manager and friend, told the media that the couple had been quarrelling for a long time. Zhou’s brother also revealed to the press that Zhou was severely depressed after the death of their mother in January. But even though “my brother was wrong to kill Bai. He wouldn’t have committed the crime if he wasn’t being pushed to the edge.”

So what happened? The facts are elusive with the case still under investigation. But Legal Evening News, which did an extensive article on the murder, says Bai had reportedly filed for divorce from her husband back in February, less than two years after they tied the knot. She discovered that Zhou had not only lied about his marital status before they were married (he was married when he met her), he also lied about his real age and the fact that he had a child from the previous marriage. Her friends also confided in the newspaper that Bai had complained that Zhou was physically abusive and a serial adulterer.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Zhou’s mother had “died of anger” after allegations earlier this year that Bai had a triad boyfriend, and colluded to embezzle Rmb20 million ($3.16 million) from her husband, says NetEase Entertainment. There was also speculation that Bai had hired a prostitute to seduce Zhou so she could gather evidence to divorce her husband, from which she would get more money.

Bai’s tragic death has stunned the country, with many taking to the internet to express their shock and grief. Director Zhang Tongzhu, who has worked with the actress, wrote on Sina Weibo: “In my mind, Bai is an innocent girl and worked hard.”

Another wrote: “They were a match made in heaven: he was talented and she beautiful. What a pity that he had the determination to kill his wife and even take his own life, but he didn’t have to courage to face the problems in life?”

Critics say the murder again highlights the problem of domestic abuse in China. Almost a quarter of Chinese women have experienced domestic abuse, according to the All China Women’s Federation. Most victims of domestic abuse are women, but children, some men and, increasingly, the elderly, suffer too. Surveys suggest that around 90% of offenders are men.

Zhou Kai, a lawyer from the Beijing-based Renhe Law Firm, told the Global Times that the law does prohibit such violence, but the prohibition is scattered among different statutes. One big reason is the traditional concept that domestic violence is a family’s internal affair. “Family ugliness must not be aired,” goes one of China’s most familiar sayings, which means: don’t talk about bad things happening at home.

But that may be about to change. China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) will mull whether to legislate against domestic violence when it meets this week, says the China Daily.

Meanwhile, another gruesome story has grabbed headlines. Zhou Yan, a 17 year-old girl from Anhui province was burned and disfigured by Tao Rukun, the son of a local government official. According to Zhou’s mother, Tao – in a rage after the beautiful teen rejected him – showed up at their house last September carrying a bottle of lighter fluid. He doused it over her daughter’s head and set her alight. Zhou’s face was disfigured, an ear mutilated, and 30% of her body was covered with second and third degree burns. Tao has been locked up.


© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Exclusively sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.