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Good news: death sentence for Li Yan overturned

    April 27, 2015

    April 23, 2015

    "I believe my sister would not be alive today if it were not for all the people in China and across the world that spoke up for her. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all the Amnesty International supporters everywhere who expressed concern and offered help to my sister, her life has been saved as a result"

    -Li Dehuai, brother of Li Yan 

    We are pleased to share the good news that the death sentence on Li Yan has been overturned!

    Li Yan had been sentenced to death in China for killing her abusive ex-husband. Her sentence is now commuted to the death sentence with a two-year reprieve. Under the Chinese law, death sentences with a two-year reprieve should be commuted to life imprisonment upon the expiration of the two-year period, as long as the prisoner does not commit another crime during the period of suspension.

    The reprieve for Li Yan could prove a landmark verdict for future cases where domestic violence is a mitigating factor. With her case, the highest court in China has sent a clear message that judges must not ignore domestic violence,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    Thank you for supporting our campaigning to defend Li Yan

    Since Amnesty International received the first hand information on Li Yan's case in January 2013, we responded swiftly by working closely with media and campaign teams, issuing a press release and mobilizing our letter-writers through an urgent action to protect her rights. With your support, Amnesty International made a significant contribution to the coverage of and public support for Li Yan.

    Background: Chinese authorities need to do more to prevent violence against women

    Li Yan’s case, whose repeated calls to the police for protection were ignored, highlights the urgent need for the Chinese authorities to do more to prevent violence against women and support survivors of domestic violence.

    China’s record on preventing violence against women is due to be reviewed by a UN panel later this year. The last review, in 2006, criticised China for the lack of comprehensive national legislation to address violence against women.

    The prolonged violence Li Yan suffered at the hands of her husband began soon after the couple married in early 2009.  Tan Yong frequently beat his wife.  He stubbed out cigarettes on her face. He locked her, near-naked, on the balcony of their apartment for hours at a time during the freezing Sichuan winter.  On one occasion, he cut off her finger.

    We do not condone Li Yan’s actions, but we do believe that this tragic outcome could have been avoided. Li Yan was hospitalised as a result of the abuse. She sought protection from the police several times and on one occasion they even photographed her injuries. Yet none of the authorities with a duty to protect her followed up on her complaints, launched an investigation into her husband’s crimes or offered her any support. Unsurprisingly the violence continued.

    In late 2010, isolated, afraid and denied protection by the authorities, Li Yan resorted to violence and beat her husband to death with a gun.

    Learn more

    Read Li Dehuai story about his sister Li Yan 

    Read press release: China: Landmark domestic violence verdict overshadowed by persecution of women’s rights activists