China’s same-sex couples heartened by property protection rights in new civil code

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05/28/2020

It was an ambush, said He Meili, a 51-year-old lesbian woman, describing how she met with her dead partner’s step-parents at a police station where they demanded she leave the apartment the couple had shared for 12 years. “It was that very moment at the police station when I truly felt the pain of not being protected by the law,” she told Reuters. Her partner, Li Qin, out of superstition that talking about death could hasten it, had not drafted a will or explicitly discussed property ownership matters. When Li died from lupus in 2016, her step-parents, legally next-of-kin, inherited the apartment in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and were quick to stick an eviction note on the door. Chinese law does not criminalise same-sex relationships, but neither does it recognise them, leaving couples like He and Li without recourse in legal disputes. But with parliament’s Thursday passage of China’s first civil code, which seeks to better protect the rights of individuals, same-sex couples have been offered hope in property claims. Tucked away among the code’s 1,260 articles is a chapter on “the right to reside”.

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