Lhamo, a Tibetan farmer in southwestern China, lived her life mostly outdoors and shared it online, posting videos of herself cooking, singing and picking herbs in the mountains around her village. By this fall, she had about 200, 000 followers, many of whom praised her as cheerful and hardworking.
Over 400 of them were watching one evening in mid-September as Lhamo, 30, streamed a video live from her kitchen on Douyin, the Chinese version of the TikTok app. Suddenly, a man stormed in and Lhamo screamed. Then the screen went dark.
When Lhamo’s sister Dolma arrived at the hospital a few hours later, she found Lhamo struggling to breathe, her body covered with burns. The police in Jinchuan County, where she lived, are investigating Lhamo’s ex-husband on suspicion that he doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. “She looked like a piece of charcoal, ” said Dolma, who, along with her sister and many other Tibetans, goes by one name. “He burned almost all her skin off. ”
Lhamo died two weeks later.
Her case, one of several that have gained national attention this year, reflects the shortcomings of China’s legal system in protecting women from domestic violence — even when they repeatedly seek help, as Lhamo did.
Public outrage has helped some get justice, including a woman in Henan province who was denied a divorce until she posted video evidence of her abuse. But for many women like Lhamo it comes too late.
In July, a man in the eastern city of Hangzhou was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife after her dismembered remains were found in a communal septic tank. Late last month, video footage went viral that appeared to show a man in Shanxi province beating his wife to death in front of bystanders.
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