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Bitcoin Gets Legal Backing In Anti-Crypto China

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July 19, 2019 | 

648 Views | 

Darryn Pollock | 

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China, one of the first countries to crack down hard on ICOs, cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency exchanges, has reaffirmed its view that Bitcoin is still “virtual property” and thus holds legal rights. 

While China has banned outright certain aspects of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, the legal status of Bitcoin has been somewhat ambiguous. However, in a precedent setting case, a court in Hangzhou upheld Bitcoin’s status as legally protected property. 

This reaffirms that it is still legal to hold, and own, Bitcoin in the heavily regulated country and that in legal disputes, the country's laws will be available to cryptocurrency users. 

Important case

The details of the case are as follows: 

In 2013, the plaintiff purchased 2.675 BTC for 20,000 yuan ($2,900) from a store operated by the defendant but later when the plaintiff sought to access the funds the store but found it closed. Between the purchase and the claim, China had instituted its bans, but still, the plaintiff sued for the loss.

In the case the plaintiff was lacking information tying the purchase back to the defendant and ultimately the case was rejected. But, the important fact of this case was that the court was willing to defend the plaintiff's claim for “virtual property.”

Thus, it would appear that even through the ambiguousness of Bitcoin ownership in China, the legal system still allows for people to be in possession of the digital currency.

“Bitcoin holds the attributes of property. It’s valuable, scarce, and disposable. Therefore, we should recognize it as virtual property according to the “General Civil Law.” Virtual property is legally protected by the laws of the People’s Republic of China,” it was said in the local news report on this case.

Different categorisation

While this is a watershed moment for China and its categorization of Bitcoin as a legal asset, there needs to be distinguishing between what it is, and what it is not, as well. Chinese courts call it virtual property, in their law, but that does not mean it is the same as money.

It has also been seen that the court ruling may be in contrast to the views of the financial leaders of the country. The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) — which imposed the 2017 ban — did not explicitly disagree with the Hangzhou decision.

“Indeed, Bitcoin is virtual property, but it's not fiat money,” a PBoC official told the local publication.

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