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Burnt by ex-lover, Chinese woman posts photos online, hailed for courage

world Updated: Aug 25, 2016 18:56 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Zhou Yan, 21, sustained severe burns when she was attacked by her former lover in 2011.(China.org.cn)

A woman doused with fuel and badly burnt by a classmate five years ago in China has posted recent photos on the Twitter-like Weibo platform, generating thousands of comments that hailed her courage and spirt for life.

State media called 21-year-old Zhou Yan’s snapshots glamour photos; pictures of courage would probably be more appropriate. 

In the photos, Zhou doesn’t hide her disfigured body or face – all the images show the thick, reddish scars on her face, torso, back, hands and legs years after the assault. 

But what the photos reveal the most is Zhou’s courage in the face of a tragedy that could have consumed her life. 

Zhou was 16 in 2011 when classmate Tao Rukun walked up to her at her home in eastern Hefei province, poured lighter fluid over her and set her on fire. Zhou had apparently broken off her relationship with Tao days before the attack. 

She sustained severe burns and was hospitalised for months, losing a year in school. 

The case was closely covered by the media as it emerged that Tao was the son of a local government official – known as a “princeling” – and was rich and influential. 

Tao was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012, but Zhou's compensation of 1.8 million yuan ($270,000) wasn’t paid to her till recently, state media reported. 

She underwent several surgeries and intensive cosmetic work over the years, which gradually healed her. 

The scars, physical and psychological, remain. 

“I live inside an unfamiliar body. I continue to live as if I were still a 16-year-old, unable to face the 21-year-old me. I am still the same romantic girl expecting an orange-flavoured rain. I often want to cry but can at most sob. Daybreak will soon arrive and everything will be alright,” she wrote in her microblog. 

As soon as Zhou published her photos online earlier this month, they were circulated and reposted thousands of times by Weibo users who saluted her courage. 

“Obviously the girl is a true beauty, also with a beautiful, courageous mind,” wrote a Weibo user. 

“What I saw is not the scar, but the girl’s incredible beauty! Maybe your life could have been totally different, but the past can’t be changed. I believe you could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes,” said another. 

“The pattern on your back is like the broken wings of an angel. Time will help expand your wings and make them more gorgeous,” was another comment.