Crazy English founder Li Yang accused of domestic abuse against his daughter by his former wife Kim Lee

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Crazy English founder Li Yang is allegedly beating one of his daughters, claimed Kim Lee, his American ex-wife whom he abused a decade ago. Since their divorce, Lee took custody of their three daughters, Li Li, Li Na and Li Hua.

Crazy English is an unorthodox language learning programme that emphasises oral learning, particularly by shouting. It has been very popular in China and has attracted about 20 million followers.

“Ten years ago, Li Hua rescued me from your violence. This year, Li Na had to rescue Li Hua from your violence. You have not changed a bit,” Lee wrote on Weibo on Sunday night, with an accompanying video clip.

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The video, which only shows a dark screen, with a man’s voice screaming in English: “What happened? Sit down!”. Then a woman’s voice screamed back, “What are you doing? Why do you want to kill me?”

Kim Lee, (L) wife of celebrity English teacher Li Yang (R) spoke out about her experience as a domestic violence survivor. Photo: Handout
Kim Lee, (L) wife of celebrity English teacher Li Yang (R) spoke out about her experience as a domestic violence survivor. Photo: Handout

Lee said on Weibo that when Li beat her, he said it was Chinese culture, so she divorced him. She forgave him for the abuse as he was the father of their three children, and even gave him her blessing when he remarried and had another child.

“But you brutally beat our daughter, you and your Crazy English cult members threatened them to not tell their mother, not tell anyone … how could you do that?”, she wrote. “I hope everyone from Crazy English can understand that China has an anti-domestic violence law. You are worshipping a criminal.”

Lee has confirmed to the South China Morning Post the authenticity of the post.

“I’m OK. Kids are safe,” she told the Post. “Just have to deal with many things and feelings.”

Li did not respond to the Post’s request for comments.

Li Yang’s maverick language teaching style has proven immensely popular in China. Photo: Handout
Li Yang’s maverick language teaching style has proven immensely popular in China. Photo: Handout

In 2011, Lee set off a national discussion about domestic abuse after she posted photos online of injuries caused by Li. She filed for divorce later that year.

In 2013, a Beijing court granted Lee 12 million yuan (US$1.86 million) when dividing the family’s assets and custody of their three daughters.

At the time it was seen as a landmark case that fostered awareness about domestic violence in China. Since the sentencing, Lee has urged mainland women to stand up for their rights.

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In 2019, Lee’s status as a voice for abused women came under attack, when she said she had forgiven her ex-husband on Weibo. She clarified to the media afterwards, telling The Beijing News her forgiveness did not extend to condoning domestic violence.

“[Li] thinks that he is the victim … and did not [recognise what he did wrong],” she said.

In 2016, China’s Anti-domestic Violence Law, which is the first of its kind in the country, formally came into effect. It enables victims of intimate partner violence or child abuse to seek restraining orders and revoke legal guardianship. It also mandates education in schools and requires law enforcement to take action against alleged abusers.

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