HONG KONG — Her face was darkened by bruises, her limbs battered. The photos that Haruka Nakaura, a Japanese model, shared on Instagram left little doubt about what had happened to her.
“I, Zhongpu Youhua, am still alive and well,” she said, using the transliterated name by which she is better known in China.
Yet on Chinese social media this week, there was considerable support for Jiang Jinfu, a 27-year-old Chinese model and actor who subsequently admitted to having beaten Ms. Nakaura. The two had been dating.
“No matter what the reason is, I should not have raised my hand,” Mr. Jiang wrote on Monday, hours after Ms. Nakaura posted the photos of herself and suggested that he was responsible.
Many Chinese internet users roundly condemned Mr. Jiang. But others said he had been brave to admit what he had done. And still others said Ms. Nakaura might have had it coming.
“Some people say there’s no excuse for beating someone like that, but if what this woman did was true, doesn’t she deserve it?” said one commenter on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform, referring to one of many rumors about the incident that social media users have been spreading.
Another Weibo user said: “Jiang Jinfu has bravely admitted domestic violence, facing the problem directly. He’s a good man. Support, encourage, applaud. This is not easy.”
Lu Pin, a prominent Chinese activist for feminist causes, said social media users were treating the incident like a tabloid scandal, not a crime.
“People are always trying to find many reasons to justify the violence and one reason they’ve found is ‘This woman is not one of us,’” Ms. Lu said, referring to comments fixated on Ms. Nakaura’s Japanese heritage.
Little is known about the circumstances of the beating, including where it happened or whether any law enforcement authorities are investigating it. Ms. Nakaura suggested in a later Instagram post that it had taken place a month earlier. She has since deleted her Instagram account.
An entertainment industry agent who said she represented Mr. Jiang, declined to comment.
The episode has again put a spotlight on domestic violence in China, where recent legislation has made it easier for victims to come forward, but experts say much remains to be done.
“More women have found the courage to ask for help, including making charges and issuing protection orders,” said Feng Yuan, a co-founder of Beijing Equality, a women’s rights nonprofit. “The problem now is that the training of police, prosecutors, lawyers and judges has not kept up.”
Ms. Feng added, “Children should be taught to oppose violence and strive for equality from kindergarten onward, so that young people like Jiang can date without committing gender violence.”
A number of state-controlled news media outlets published editorials this week about Ms. Nakaura’s case, condemning domestic violence and encouraging victims to report it to the police.
In China, family and public pressures often compel victims to stay silent, or they are dismissed by the local authorities when they do come forward. Still, the situation has improved in the years since Kim Lee, an American woman, accused her Chinese celebrity husband of abusing her.
In her highly publicized 2014 divorce trial, Ms. Lee received the first personal protection order ever issued in Beijing. That was followed by a landmark domestic violence law in 2016, which made it easier for women across China to obtain such orders.
CGTN, the Chinese state news agency, recently reported that 1,830 protection orders had been issued since 2017. Experts say there are still too few resources being devoted to the problem — like shelters for battered women — for the domestic violence law to be effectively implemented.
“According to government numbers, there are several hundred shelters, but it is not clear to women how to enter these shelters or what services they provide,” Ms. Feng said. “Furthermore, many shelters don’t offer services that gender violence victims need beyond a bed and food.”
Mr. Jiang was mostly known for modeling before he began acting in “Xuan Yuan Sword: Scar of Sky,” a Chinese television series adapted from a fantasy video game. According to local news reports, he had suspended his acting career to study abroad in Japan this year. Ms. Nakaura is less well known in China, but the two often appeared in photographs together in Mr. Jiang’s Weibo account, which has 1.7 million followers.
Before deleting her Instagram account this week, Ms. Nakaura addressed Mr. Jiang and dismissed his apology. “If you really wanted to apologize, you would apologize to me directly and not through Weibo,” she said. She also said he had caused her to miscarry.
In a photo of the two that Chinese state media published this week, said to be from September, Ms. Nakaura wears a T-shirt that reads, “We should all be feminists.”
Tiffany May reported from Hong Kong, and Claire Fu from Beijing. Zoe Mou and Elsie Chen contributed research from Beijing.
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