July 7, 2013

Who was Su Li? What is Su Li's Day?

(Caution: If you are emotionally fragile, this post may not be suitable to you.)

After I posted my article "'Filial Piety and Child Abuse" - an article I wrote two years ago, in a Chinese forum, an online friend suggested that I should initiate a community to memorize Su Li and promote the awareness of child abuse situation in China. I thought it's a good idea. After I initiate two shared blogs, I also started a facebook page "Su Li's Day - Chinese Child Abuse Awareness Day". Below is what I wrote in "About" page in facebook page:

Su Li
Su Li (1988 - 1993, "Li" is first name, I put her name in the order of Chinese custom just for the a better recognition by pronunciation) was a little girl who lived in Xining city, Qinghai province, China. Through her young life, she was abused and tortured daily by her biological "mother" Yan, Zhiyun (I have to put quotation marks simply because this woman is not deserved to be called as "mother"). How she was tortured was beyond any humans' imagination - not only being beaten up and given little or no foods at all, her mouth was - at least twice - sewed together with needle and thread - only because she was so hungry that she stole some  chicken feed. During the last several days of her life, just because she begged for foods, she was fed with hot boiling cooking oil, and together with other physical abuse. She finally died.

After she died, the coroner from police department found no intact skin or flesh on her body, inside and out!

This monster Yan, Zhiyun, the women possibly committed one of the worst crimes in entire human history, was only sentenced 7 years in prison. This may sound strange to a country that still practices death penalty to murders, but the reason for Yan, Zhiyun's special sentence was simple, because she is the mother of Su Li. Parents do everything for children's good. Does this reason make sense to you?

After Yan, Zhiyun got out of prison, she went straight to destroy Su Li's tomb, to release her immense hatred or rage, whichever, that no humans could comprehend.

Su Li's situation was not hidden from society, it was known to the neighborhood and once even was reported by a newspaper. Yet, her "mother" never was punished, and no one thought of rescuing Su Li from her evil "mother". Su Li was left alone, lived in the living hell until her young life could not bear anymore. I understand that "evil" like Yan, Zhiyun can be traced anywhere in the world. but only in China, she (or/he) could go this far without hiding herself. For me, Su Li was more a victim of society, a tradition, than a victim of an "evil" individual.

In China, for thousands years long, under principle of "filial piety", children are "belongings" or "properties“ of their parents. Parents have absolute power over children. Parents are entitled to "teach" their children in anyway they think is "appropriate", include corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is totally encouraged, if not advocated directly, by Confucianism - the mainstream Chinese ideology, which still dominates Chinese people moral thoughts and behaviors. This tradition has been ingrained inside most Chinese people's mind so deep that even a sacrifice like Su Li doesn't seem to be enough to make it shake.

Su Li died over 20 years ago, yet numerous similar stories are still witnessed, heard, and thousands, millions of Chinese children are still being abused by their biological parents, everyday, more or less by different means. That's why it becomes so necessary to do something, call all the people, Chinese or non-Chinese, to remember a life like Su Li, to remember what she suffered,  and think about what we can do to make a change.

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  1. Oh Yun Yi, I almost couldn't finish reading this post. You're absolutely right, Sun Li was victimized by her own society, a casualty of filial piety. I wonder if Zhiyun would have received a harsher sentence had the child been a boy. To think that this abusive ideology still permeates mainstream Chinese society is chilling. How people can do nothing in a situation like this is beyond comprehension.

  2. Kris, to tell you truth, I found people who were poisoned by such ideology impossible to reason with.

  3. I want to thank you for awakening me. I am a different person now. I know very little about Chinese culture. From what little I know I have supposed that it is a male dominated culture. I've heard of a book a few years ago from a 'harsh' Chinese mother which received a lot of controversy. I heard that she was so demanding of perfection in her children, when they made her homemade birthday cards, she'd give them back and say "You can do better." My gosh, I personally thought that was so hurtful. One of my mother's most painful memories was when she was an early teen and baked her mother a birthday cake - her first one. I guess my grandma had some depressive episodes back then. She was sad and angry at the family as well as the whole world, and threw the uneaten cake out the back door onto the grass. Mom still cried the few times she's told me the story. she cried while she told me how much she understood now it wasn't her fault. she even knew then, but that doesn't stop the pain of the experience.

    I almost feel ashamed for sharing that, because that's nothing in comparison to what happened to that poor girl, and what is happening as we speak.

    I can only imagine how hurtful it must be for innocent children who want to please their parents and never seem to do well enough just in a 'standard' home. I don't want to imagine how many children, and today's adults who have been brought up with corporal punishment and further into outright abuse.

    Honestly, I had no idea that women were even permitted that much power. Before reading this, I'd guess that only the father would be the physical disciplinarian.

    However, it makes no difference who abuses their children. The most shocking revelation for me is the engrained ideology that supports this kind of behavior.

    Child abuse is not accepted here in our culture, yet it happens all the time. I shudder to think how often it's happening in a society where it is accepted.

    I agree with you that it's more than just one parent - it it the ideology compounded with parent's past rearing that is feeding a horrid machine of thought.

    You are brave and compassionate to do so.

    Thank you again for opening my eyes.

  4. @Charlene, I appreciate so much for your sharing your mother's story. " she cried while she told me how much she understood now it wasn't her fault", I had such kind of enlightenment too and I cried like a child myself. It was the turning point for my life, and I believe it could be a turning point for anyone who were abused during childhood.

    It is stunning story, isn't it? I heard this story a few years ago, and I was thinking, God I was lucky!

    Yes, it was hard for me to know how many children were/are physical abused by "mothers", especially mothers to daughters.

    Charlene, the story of your mother's making cake for your grandma reminds me a book I read: "Whispers and Lies" by Joy Fielding. It is one of most powerful books I read about child abuse (no gruesome details at all). Part of story (the most important part) is identical to your mother's experience. I wonder if you like to read the book. I would not tell you too much because it is a mystery. It is somehow very dark so if you don't want to touch this kind of stories I would understand totally.

    Thank you again for your heartfelt comment!

  5. Yun, words fail me here and it doesn't happen often. I believe, her neighbours and the state were party to the heinous crime that stretched for 5 unbearably long years.

  6. Hi Yun Yi,
    Truly a heinous crime of the worst order. To think it is somehow 'brushed under Chinese society's carpet'. Almost impossible to understand. We, in Australia, have had a couple of recently publicised cases of mothers torturing and murdering their own child.
    It is the most unnatural crime imaginable. You are to be congratulated for highlighting this.

  7. Yun Yi, you have a very kind heart and thank you for remembering Su Li here in your blog and on the Facebook page you initiated. The awful abuse that little girl suffered is almost beyond comprehension...mouth sewed together with needle and thread, being fed boiling hot cooking oil, and “no intact skin or flesh on her body” when she died...what kind of monster does that to a child! That the “monster” was her biological mother makes it even more tragic. And yet this is not an isolated case, and thank you for enlightening us about that.

    Shocking that the mother’s sentence was only 7 years in prison for this horrific crime, only 7 years because she is Su Li’s mother and this crime falls under the centuries-old “filial piety” laws in China. Then she gets out and destroys little Su Li’s tomb? Horrible! That her neighbors knew what was happening to Su Li and nobody intervened shows how ingrained this culture of abuse is in China. It’s almost as if they are blind to seeing the abused child as an individual deserving of love and respect. I agree with you that Su Li was more a victim of society and tradition than a victim of an evil person.

    Thank you for stepping forward to “call all the people.” Writing about it as you have done is what’s needed to help bring attention to this culture of child abuse, and hopefully help promote change. Although changing a centuries-old tradition will not come overnight or be easy, it has to start somewhere. You are the brave soul who stepped forward to speak for Su Li!

  8. @Uma, thanks! It is indeed speechless situation.

    @Neil, thanks! It is "unnatural". That's why I wrote "there are two kinds of human problem: problem of humna, and problem of "cultivated" human. Culture doesn't some strange things to human, sometime beyond our comprehension.

  9. @Madilyn, there are so many child abuse cases everyday, and I could read many horrible stories every day, if I read online, this in indeed the worst cases I ever heard!

    I must point out that the neighbors did try to do something to change: many of them came to door to talk to that monster "mother". But that's probably only things they did. No one tried to "steal" Su Li away because they still believe she was her mother's property. That's what makes me feel angry.

    This culture, made people's mind so weak, so weak before evil behaviors that sometime I have to think that this weak mind alone is a crime against humanity, against good. I am not ashamed to say that I angry about this culture, and sometime people who are poisoned by such culture, because I am human, and still love life.

    Thanks Madilyn for reading such "unreadable" post and heartfelt comment.

  10. What a sad and tragic story Yun Yi. I'm always disgusted at how some parents treat their own children in the name of religion, culture, race etc. It is nothing more than pure hatred and evil. In reality they are murderers and nothing less. And to think that when she came out of prison, she just continued her evil ways, is beyond me.

    People need to be educated in different ways now, and it seems that many of the young children in many countries are the ones being targeted. Children are supposed to be our future but look what's happening to them.... Thanks for telling me this story, as I didn't hear about it until now.

  11. RPD,
    It is such a tragic story. I read it a few years back and never really like to touch it again. However some recent event reminds me, it's better to do something for her.
    Thanks for reading this disturbing story!

  12. This just breaks my heart. It's so hard to believe monsters like that exist in the world -- worse yet, they get away with it. I'm so glad you're sharing this story and problem, however horrifying it is.

  13. How sad and terrifying. I' m very proud of you for what you are doing to help these children.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Thanks Janene and Julia! It is horrifying. I appreciate your support!

  15. You are right to place the word mother in inverted commas Yun Yi.
    It is ironic that such beings are called `animals'- most certainly an insult to the animal kingdom.
    Cheers, ic