Tibetan vlogger Lhamo’s killer gets death sentence for brutal live-streamed murder

·4-min read

A Chinese court sentenced to death a man who set fire to his ex-wife and well-known vlogger Lhamo while she was live-streaming, killing her.

According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, Tang Lu was convicted of murdering the beloved Tibetan internet celebrity at the Abe Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The death sentence was handed out immediately.

Tang and Lhamo divorced in mid-2020, and three months later, on September 14, Tang made an unexpected visit to her home on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, carrying a knife and a bucket of petrol. He doused his ex-wife and set her on fire while she was live-streaming. Two weeks later, the 30-year-old mother of two died.

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Lhamo’s warm smile had endeared her to fans online. Photo: Douyin
Lhamo’s warm smile had endeared her to fans online. Photo: Douyin

The very public nature and extreme violence of the attack shocked the country and triggered a fierce debate over domestic violence in China.

The Chinese government has proclaimed that it believes in gender equality and is using the tools at its disposal to try and fix the problem of domestic violence in the country.

But, after a string of high-profile cases of deadly violence against women that year, Lhamo’s murder became a tipping point, creating sustained outrage both online and offline in China.

In July 2020, a man was detained for murdering and dismembering his wife after a family dispute. A few days later, Hainan police arrested a man for killing his wife with a kitchen cleaver. Also that month, a man in Sichuan admitted to killing his wife while she was asleep.

The cases, along with national statistics that said 73 men and 14 women were convicted of murdering or attempting to murder an intimate partner between September and October 2020, sparked introspection in China.

Lhamo had tried to seek help from the authorities before she was murdered by her ex-husband. Photo: Douyin
Lhamo had tried to seek help from the authorities before she was murdered by her ex-husband. Photo: Douyin

Women said they were all too familiar with unequal power dynamics and police who shrugged when domestic violence was reported.

As details of Lhamo’s case emerged, many people believed the system had failed her. Women across China nicknamed her the “perfect victim” because she tried multiple times extradite herself from an abusive relationship, which did not work.

It was not long after the marriage between Lhamo and Tang when the beatings started, and, at first, Lhamo was reluctant to talk about it with her family.

But eventually it got so bad that Lhamo confided in her sister Dolma who tried to talk Tang into stopping but had no success. In one incident, Tang dislocated Lhamo’s shoulder after a poker game.

“I am sorry, this is all I can do for you right now. I will protect those you love and worry about. Please rest in peace, my little sister.”

Dolma, Lhamo’s older sister, at Tang’s trial

Lhamo did not rely on Tang for money, and she had repeatedly tried to escape the man after he beat her.

Dolma said Lhamo had gone to the police twice, only to be rebuffed because it was a “family matter”.

In one incident reported by the Post in December 2020, Lhamo had sought refuge at a relative’s home that May. Tang, looking for her, approached Dolma at a souvenir shop and punched her in the face, breaking her jaw.

Lhamo was granted a divorce, but she returned to Tang after he threatened to kill their sons. After he continued to beat her, she filed for divorce again, but Tang was given custody of the two boys.

When details emerged that authorities had ignored Lhamo’s cries for help, it touched a nerve in China.

Lhamo loved a fast food dish China that self-heats when water is added. Photo: Douyin
Lhamo loved a fast food dish China that self-heats when water is added. Photo: Douyin

Dolma had been waiting for the trial in Wenchuan since Tuesday and has repeatedly said on social media that she wanted justice for her sister.

“I am sorry, this is all I can do for you right now. I will protect those you love and worry about,” Dolma said on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, last week. “Please rest in peace, my little sister.”

Lhamo was popular for her warm smile, authentic interactions with fans and love for a self-heating Chinese pork and rice fast food dish.

She made a living in the mountains of Sichuan harvesting herbs with her father, living in makeshift huts while on the hunt, and cooking noodles and potatoes. In 2018, she began documenting her life on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

Lhamo’s humble attitude won her fans across China. Photo: Douyin
Lhamo’s humble attitude won her fans across China. Photo: Douyin

In one video post, she explained in the caption why her hands were cracked and dirty. “I have the face of a 30-year-old but the hands of a 50-year-old. Don’t criticise me for the dirty hands, I use them to make money.”

In her final post, Lhamo filmed herself after returning from a trip to the mountains. She wore traditional Tibetan clothes and sang a song in Mandarin about the hospitality of her people.

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