One year has passed since 21-year-old Huang Jing died in her apartment in Xiangfan in central China's Hubei Province.
But Bu Wei, a researcher of the media and women's right protection with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, fears that Huang's soul might not be able to rest in peace.
On the night of February 24 last year, Huang, a primary school teacher, was found dead at her home, naked, with numerous bruises all over her body.
Huang Jing's boyfriend, Jiang Junwu, an official with the local taxation administration, admitted that he stayed in her room that night. He said he tried to have sex with Huang, who was unwilling to comply; she was dead soon thereafter.
Police concluded that Huang had died of a heart attack.
And they reasoned that Jiang's failure to come to her rescue was because Huang Jing proposed to break up with Jiang that night, and was unwilling to have sex with him.
But Huang's mother, Huang Shuhua, believes that she has every reason to doubt the conclusion. She argues that no medical records showed her daughter had any sort of heart condition before. Further, the conclusion failed to explain bruises all over her body.
Based on these facts, Huang Shuhua has asked the police to carry out further investigations into the death, as she thinks that her daughter's death might have been caused by violence associated with a rape.
But the other two post-mortem examinations carried out by the police ended up with the same conclusion that Jiang was not guilty and homicide had been ruled out because the injuries to Huang Jing were "not fatal."
Over the past year, Bu Wei and other activists for women's rights have tried to get the police to investigate Huang's death and the possibility of it being a date rape situation. But Xiangfan authorities were only willing to look at the case as a sexual assault matter in September, and their results once again exonerated the suspect.
The investigators did not even consider the relation between Huang Jing's death and Jiang Junwu's presence and actions that night, says Ai Xiaoming, a researcher of women's rights with Zhongshan University. Ai published her study of the case online after the police investigation results were publicized.
"Huang Jing's case is a typical one that shows date rape is not being taken seriously in China now," she says.
"Many Chinese people, especially in cities, believe sex is a very natural thing between a girlfriend and a boyfriend, such as Huang Jing and Jiang Junwu. So they will not regard date rape as a kind of sexual assault," the professor says.
Rape, in the minds of most Chinese people, is a crime done by a stranger who violates a woman, she says.
In 1999, the China Women's News reported that a female student at the Capital Normal University reported to the police that she was raped by her ex-boyfriend when she went to his home to get her things back.
But she was told such cases would not be put on record. She did not even get a chance to prove she was raped.
In addition, the university expelled both the female student and her ex-boyfriend from the university. After the media's intervention, the girl was finally re-admitted to the university.
But whatever the truth is, the case shows that victims of date rape are not likely to be treated justly, says Bu Wei.
Bu says the reason for such disregard of date rape cases is that violence between acquaintances, such as couples, lovers and families, is still believed to be "a private issue" according to traditional Chinese values.
Many victims of domestic violence have been living with these notions in mind, Bu adds.
In the end, those who can no longer bear it may use violence to save themselves from further abuses.
Fortunately, a campaign was started in the country to fight against domestic violence in 2000, and this is paying off. People have started to become aware about women's right to protection from domestic violence, Bu says.
A number of female prisoners in Central China's Hubei Province had their original sentences adjusted on Women's Day this year.
These women were said to have suffered domestic violence for a long time without any support from their families or society, so they finally killed their husbands when the violence grew beyond their endurance.
"In a civilized society, any kind of violence, including violence between acquaintances, should not be tolerated," Bu says.
So far, the idea of date rape has not been widely accepted among the Chinese people, she adds.
"We hope that the tragic story of Huang Jing will change people's attitudes towards date rape, and thus reduce the number of violent acts against women," she says.
(China Daily March 30, 2004)