Chinese Social Media Star Dies From Ex-husband Setting Her on Fire

October 12, 2020 Updated: October 13, 2020

Chinese online influencer Lamu, a 30-year-old Tibetan woman, passed away on Sept. 30 after receiving half a month of treatment for severe burns at a hospital in China’s Sichuan Province.

The tragedy took place on Sept. 14 in Lamu’s home, located in the prefecture of Aba, an autonomous prefecture of northwestern Sichuan. Lamu was live streaming a video as usual when her ex-husband, surnamed Tang, burst into her room with a cleaver in his hand. Then he doused her in gasoline that he had brought and set her on fire. The room quickly burst into flames.

The severely burned woman was rushed to the local hospital, and then transferred to the provincial hospital. Despite the doctors’ efforts to save her, Lamu eventually died, leaving her loved ones behind, including two young children.

Her sudden death took China’s social media by surprise, especially among a large group of followers on Dou Yin, a Chinese version of TikTok.

Lamu was a successful video blogger. Her love of nature and style of blogging garnered 240,000 fans and 2,900,000 likes on her videos. She would film herself singing, dancing, and collecting herbs in the mountain.

However, behind her beaming smiles was a sad story.

Lamu had a turbulent marriage. According to her sister Zhuoma’s account and Chinese media reports, Lamu’s ex-husband Tang used to beat her. Lamu reported the incidents and called the police for help several times, but the police only reprimanded Tang with verbal warnings.

In May this year, Lamu filed for divorce in the local court and gained custody of one child. However, Tang threatened to beat and kill one of their children.

Then Lamu agreed to reconcile with Tang. But after another incident of domestic violence, she fled with one of their children.

Lamu’s tragic death prompted hundreds of thousands of social media users to condemn domestic violence. The topic has topped 420,000,000 views on social media, the BBC reported on Oct. 2.

One netizen wrote: “Violence has nothing to do with domestic affairs! Violence is crime!”

Another one hoped that “women will enjoy more sense of security.”

Heavy Topic: Domestic Violence in China

According to Axios, an Arlington-based American news website, domestic violence is a widespread problem in China. A November 2016 survey by the All-China Women’s Federation shows that 30 percent of married Chinese women had sustained some form of domestic abuse.

However, during the COVID-19 lockdowns when people were ordered to stay at home for months, domestic abuse cases spiked in China.

“The epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence,” Wan Fei, the founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit in Jingzhou city, Hubei Province, told Sixth Tone, a news outlet in China.

The number of abuse cases tripled in February, compared to the same period the previous year, according to a local police station, Wan added.

Ineffective Enforcement Against Domestic Violence

In 2016, China passed its first anti-domestic violence law, after years of activists’ efforts.

Unfortunately, the law has been poorly enforced. Activists claim Chinese police are not taking the cases seriously, leaving women to fend for themselves, says Axios. Lamu’s unexpected death is a case in point.

Furthermore, the Chinese Communist Party’s growing belief that political stability, its primary concern, requires families to stay together, according to a study published by Axios on March 7.

Wang Yaqiu, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, echoed this viewpoint in November 2018. “Government pressure for institutions to help maintain ‘social stability’—a paramount political priority—is also an important factor in the drive by courts to ‘preserve family harmony’ at any cost to women.”