“She is a changed person”: Daughter of Hong Li, who survived 40 slashes in Beach Road incident
by Christine Leow // November 8, 2023, 4:44 pm
Han Hong Li (left) holds the hand of her visiting daughter whom she has not seen for nearly five years. Since her assault, Hongli has been sharing her story to encourage others. Her daughter prefers not to be photographed. All photos courtesy of The Salvation Army unless otherwise stated.
When Han Hong Li ventured to Singapore to work in 2016, she did not expect to make the news in the worst of ways.
The minimart in Henan, China, that she was running with her husband had not been making nearly enough to see her children through school. So the native of Henan left her children behind – a son who was then only 12 and a 15-year-old daughter – to make a better living in Singapore.
While she did do well enough to be promoted to a managerial position at a steamboat restaurant, she also became a victim of one of the most horrific slashing cases in Singapore.
More than 18 months after being hunted down at her workplace by her estranged husband and slashed over 40 times, Salt&Light catches up with Hongli and the daughter she has not seen in nearly five years.
“I cannot die”
Hong Li arrives for her interview with Salt&Light straight from a hospital appointment. During the brutal attack, she had sustained two deep lacerations across her left eye. Her retina was so severely damaged, she is now totally blind in that eye.
“The eyeball is usually a globe. But mine became entirely deflated. The doctor wanted to remove it. But I was adamant that I want to die with both eyes,” Hong Li told Salt&Light in Mandarin.
As her wound healed, scar tissues formed around her left eye. The resulting puffiness has made it difficult to open that eye beyond a mere slit. While Hong Li may no longer see through her left eye, she still cares how others see her. She is due to undergo a surgery in December to allow her to fully open her left eye, as well as to correct the cloudy look of that eyeball.
“Even though I was so injured, I never felt any pain throughout the incident.”
On April 14, 2022, Hong Li’s estranged husband had confronted her with a chopper at the steamboat restaurant at which she worked. He had been periodically working in Singapore. But prior to the attack, he had been home in China. He had returned to the country presumably with the sole intention of killing Hongli and then himself.
“As he hacked at me, I cried and asked him, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’
“He told me, ‘If I can’t live happily, you won’t live at all!’”
As Hong Li tried to escape his blows, she had only one thought in her mind.
“I thought, ‘I cannot die; I must not die. What would happen to the children if I died?’ My priority was to protect my head and neck because if he slashed me there, it would be fatal.
“I was clear-headed enough throughout the attack to think of that. So I ran to the road and tried to burrow under a car parked by the side so I could cover my head and neck.”
By the time her estranged husband was subdued and arrested by the police, he had chased Hong Li through Beach Road, attacked her with a chopper and a kitchen knife, and left her bleeding profusely from 42 gaping wounds.
“Even though I was so injured, I never felt any pain throughout the incident. No pain at all.
“When I was in the ambulance, I even wondered, ‘Why is my body so wet?’ It was actually my blood.”
It has been nearly a year since Salt&Light last spoke to Hongli. On this occasion, she is all smiles. Her daughter, now 21, has come for a three-week visit. It is the first time mother and daughter have been together in nearly five years.
The trip is another example of the provision of God through the kindness of strangers.
Eric Lee, a volunteer manager from The Sojourn Programme which helps migrant workers, has been journeying with Hongli from the start. He knows how much Hongli missed her children. So he gathered sponsors to pay for their fare.
“I see how good and loving God is.”
Hong Li’s son, now 17, could not come because of school. So only her daughter, who graduated from university and is awaiting a six-month internship, came.
Said her daughter who did not want to be named: “Even the journey here was a miracle. I have never travelled out of China before and didn’t dare fly alone.
“Uncle Eric found out that someone he knew was flying out from Henan to Singapore. So he arranged for me to fly with him.”
The visit has brought Hong Li joy in other ways. Her daughter gave her life to Jesus during the trip.
Although her daughter had been exposed to Christianity from young as Hong Li had taken her to church, she had not seen the reality or relevance of God in her daughter before.
Said Hong Li’s daughter: “But now, I see how good and loving God is. So many strangers who don’t know us have come to help us, like Uncle Eric. I am so touched and so grateful.”
Seeing the change in her mother has also moved Hong Li’s daughter and confirmed for her the power of God.
“My mother is totally changed. She used to be very concerned about money, very self-reliant. Now she treasures relationships.
“In the past, whatever I did, she would always have a different view and would try to impose her ways on me.
“Now we are like sisters. We are very close and I’m not afraid to share with her everything. All she wants is for my brother and I to be happy and alive.”
Forgiven to forgive
In the beginning, when asked how she felt about the man who had hurt her so badly that he had left one eye blinded, one finger severed and nerves in her hand damaged, Hong Li spoke with anger and bitterness. She told of how she hated him so deeply that she could feel it in her bones.
“I wanted to take revenge and hurt him like he hurt me.”
Last year, she told Salt&Light that she was not yet ready to forgive but had begun to pray for his salvation.
“If we have the love of Jesus, we can let go of our anger.”
Today, Hong Li has a different answer: “I have since set my mind to fully forgive him.
“Since I got to know my great God, I have tried to forgive him. Because I have learnt of God’s love and forgiveness, I can love my enemies. I cannot do it on my own. But God has given me the strength to do so.
“After I decided to forgive him, I felt free. When I sleep at night, I am no longer afraid. I used to have nightmares.”
She admits that there are times when thinking about her estranged husband still riles her up. But Philippians 3:13-14 sustains her: Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
“This Scripture means a lot to me. I want to forget the past and head towards the future.”
Walks in the park and the prayers of her friends at the shelter where she now lives also help.
“If we have the love of Jesus, we can let go of our anger. Because I am a Christian, I am very happy. I don’t have a worry.”
Hong Li’s example has lit the path for her daughter who first found out about her mother’s plight on social media. Her uncle, who is her guardian, had refused to divulge much at first.
“He said that my father had hit my mother a few times. But when I did not hear from my mother for three days, I got suspicious. I kept asking him, ‘If Mother is not badly hurt, why doesn’t she pick up my call?’
“I went online and quite easily found out about the whole thing.”
Both of Hong Li’s children were enraged. Their father had always been an angry man who thought nothing of hitting both his wife and children.
“I have not thought about what happens after that. I will leave it in God’s hands.”
“He would hit us for the smallest things, like if we didn’t sweep the floor properly or wipe the table clean enough.
“But we didn’t expect him to do this terrible thing.”
Hatred also fuelled thoughts of revenge in both of Hong Li’s children.
“My son wanted to kill his father,” Hong Li said.
But seeing her mother display love beyond comprehension has inspired Hong Li’s daughter.
“I don’t hate him now. But to forgive him is a challenge. I need to slowly use Jesus’ love to forgive him because he did hurt my mother.
“Letting go of hatred and giving it to God is truly easier said than done. As a new Christian, I will use the Word of God to transform me.”
Meanwhile, Hong Li is waiting to testify at her estranged husband’s trial.
“I have not thought about what happens after that. I will leave it in God’s hands.”
Said her daughter: “My mum is my home. Where she is, there is my home. I just want to get a job and help my mum to support my brother.
“She has worked so hard, she deserves to rest. Let her be happy. The three of us together can face all challenges without fear.”
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