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‘Crime of passion’: Taiwanese man savagely murders his ex-girlfriend

The events took place on October 16th in Shuishang, Chiayi County.

Around 4 am, 47-year-old hospital employee Liu Yizhen (劉苡臻) was returning home with her male friend Wu Bingda (吳秉達) after a night of karaoke. Apparently, they were ambushed by Liu’s ex-boyfriend, 50-year-old Chen Zhongchun (陳忠春), who allegedly stabbed her to death: when Wu tried to escape, Chen caught up to him and slashed him over ten times, leaving him critically wounded. Chen then fled the scene, abandoning his scooter behind. He is currently wanted by the police.

Chen Zhongcun (Source: Apple Daily)

Chen Zhongchun is well-known by police services and has an extensive criminal record including fraud and theft. He is also known for his excessive gambling: the reason he engaged in illegal activities was probably to pay back the sums he owed. A neighbor described him as aloof and antisocial. He was divorced from his wife, with whom he had two adopted children, a daughter, and a son. Due to his criminal record, he was deemed unfit as a guardian.

It would seem Chen Zhongchun met Liu Yizhen at a KTV the preceding year and became immediately smitten with her, beginning to “ardently pursue her” (zhankai relie zhuiqiu). Apparently, she complained to a friend he cheated on her with prostituted women and had a violent temper. This led her to break up in August, severing all ties with him. Three days before she was murdered, as she was having dinner with friends and relatives at a seafood restaurant, Chen Zhongchun unexpectedly appeared, hit her in her face and publicly insulted her before leaving the scene. While very shaken, Liu Yizhen was unwilling to keep her head down and filed a legal plaint at her local police station the very next day.

It was on the following night that she was attacked and slaughtered by Chen Zhongchun, who had been waiting for her in front of her house. Her friend Wu Bingda gave her a lift home: she was sitting in the passenger’s seat when she noticed Chen Zhongchun from afar. It is understood she panicked and asked Wu Bingda to keep driving, turn off the lights and wait in a nearby road. However, Chen Zhongchun noticed them and ran up to the car, breaking the passenger’s window and slashing Liu Yizhen in the neck with a kitchen knife. He stabbed her more than twenty times. Wu Bingda attempted to escape: it is not known if he tried to help Liu Yizhen at all. Chen Zhongchun chased after him, stabbed him several times and left him critically injured before fleeing the scene. He allegedly returned to his home in Fanlu to change clothes, then left with his bicycle. His daughter reports having received a phone call where he told her the following: “I killed people, and now I want to kill myself.” (Wo sharen le, xiang yao zisha). This kind of threat and behavior is common among men who murder their partners or ex-partners after they tried to escape. The prosecution has issued an arrest warrant and the police are currently searching for Chen Zhongchun.

This hateful act brings to mind the gruesome murder of a young trainee teacher named Lin by her ex-boyfriend, a Taida graduate, after she broke up with him in September 2014: despite “accidentally” taking a nude picture of her without her consent, attempting to use it to blackmail her into renewing their relationship, and stabbing her to death more than thirty times, the man was quoted as saying he “loved [her]” and “gave her all [his] feelings. Might as well perish together”. He turned the knife on himself, but sustained only minor injuries. Similarly, in May 2015, a 20-year-old woman named Yu was stabbed by her former boyfriend, who then attempted suicide by slashing himself and embracing her body on the ground. He survived. She did not. Yu’s sister told the police he had been harassing her ever since their break-up. He was quoted as saying his ex-girlfriend “belonged” to him.

“Belong”: the word says it all. Men who murder their partners or ex-partners do so to punish them for wanting to leave: in the words of War Machine when he assaulted his ex-girlfriend Christy Mack, “that’s my p*ssy and I’m going to take it back now.” It is about taking back control and establishing your claim on what you see as your property:

In many cases, men feel insecure or threatened because their wives or girlfriends say no to sex or attempt to leave the relationship, says Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D., a Professor of Sociology at Mills College in Oakland, California, and one of the world’s foremost experts on violence against women. “It’s a macho acting-out of the attitude, ‘How dare you—you inferior bitch—leave me!’” she says. It’s “acting out his feelings of male superiority.”

Misogyny in raw form. Unfortunately, women’s rights activists have noted the media will have a tendency to portray it as “ill-fated love”. Meghan Murphy makes note of this while analyzing media coverage of Kelsey Annese’s murder by Colin Kingston in January 2016:

One headline asks, “Did a broken heart lead Colin Kingston to kill two people?”Another states only, “Matthew Hutchinson, North Vancouver hockey player, found dead in N.Y. state,” leaving readers confused as to why the female victim — the primary target of the violence — was so easily erased from the story. “A 24-year-old New York man angry about a recent breakup fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend and another SUNY-Geneseo college student before killing himself,” Heavy reports.

What we are to believe, in case it’s unclear, is that “love” caused this man to kill a woman. This is a message we hear so often, it probably seems reasonable to many. But it’s not reasonable. Men do not kill out of “love,” they kill out of a desire to control. “If I can’t have you, nobody can,” is a common refrain we hear from abusive men. And, often, they mean it.

Sure enough, Apple daily chose the following title to report on the murder: “Ai bu dao zhuisha qian nuyou“, which one can translate as, “Because she didn’t love him back, he kills his former girlfriend”. The murder is also referred to as a “crime of passion” (qingsha), another expression that frames the behavior of abusive men as stemming from “love” while implicitly excusing their actions, since they resulted from a lack of control over their “passionate” feelings. Another article uses the expression “crime of passion” and calls Wu Bingda Chen’s “rival in love” (qingdi), while Chinatimes describes Chen Zhongchun as a “man jealous due to love” (cunnan).

But Chen Zhongchun brought with him a kitchen knife and waited for Liu Yizhen in front of her own house, probably for hours. This was premeditated, cold-blooded murder.

Apple daily also gives extensive details about Chen Zhongchun’s past and family, while barely mentioning Liu Yizhen herself was a single mother of several children. A picture even shows Chen Zhongchun at his daughter’s wedding with the following caption: “His whole face expresses happiness” (kan de chu ta manlian xinxi).

The purpose of this picture is, frankly, unclear. Is it meant to show the murderer who abused and killed a woman because she wouldn’t bend to his will was a pleasant man and a good guy after all? Is that really necessary? If anything, isn’t Liu Yizhen the one who deserves a proper obituary and testaments to who she was?

Liu Yizhen (Source: Apple daily)

Male violence against women is an endemic issue in Taiwan, but it would seem it remains mostly hidden. The US Human Rights report from 2015 states the following:

Many victims [do] not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and various (…) NGOs and academic studies estimated that the total number of sexual assaults was seven to ten times the number reported to police.

(…) Courts typically sentenced individuals convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison. Social pressure not to disgrace their families discouraged some abused women from reporting incidents to police

The report from 2012 also stated that  “principal human rights problems reported during the year were corruption and violence against women and children.”

Research undertaken by the Garden of Hope Foundation in 2012 found that 41.5% of women in Taiwan have fallen victim to male violence.

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