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Lhamo, a Tibetan farmer in southwestern China, lived her life mostly outdoors and put 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 in her attack in which she was doused with gasoline and set 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.

More than 900 women have died at the hands of their husbands or partners since China's law against domestic violence was enacted in 2016, according to Beijing Equality, a women's-rights group.

The domestic-violence law promised police investigations and easier access to restraining orders, but enforcement is spotty and punishments are light in a society that stigmatizes divorce and pressures victims of abuse to keep silent. Activists say many police officers are not properly trained to handle domestic violence cases. In the countryside, where Lhamo was from, victims often lack social support networks and are less educated about their rights.

Just one day after Lhamo's death, Xi Jinping, China's top leader, told a U.N. conference on women that the "protection of women's rights and interests must become a national commitment."

The Chinese internet seized on the speech. And soon, people were calling for stronger enforcement of the domestic-violence law using the hashtag #LhamoAct. Within a day, the hashtag had been censored on Weibo, one of China's most popular social media platforms. Other hashtags condemned the failure of the police to prevent Lhamo's murder, including #StopNotActing and #PunishNotActing.


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