SHANGHAI: A local court in the eastern hub of Shanghai has given the ruling in a real estate dispute between a gay couple, which experts said highlights a lack of legislation over property disputes amongst homosexuals.
The dispute is over a 50 sq m apartment now worth about 600,000 yuan ($87,800) in the city's Pudong New Area. The defendant, Zhang Bin, and the plaintiff, his companion surnamed Zhan, bought the apartment together in 2004 with both their names on the ownership certificate.
The Lujiazui court in Pudong on Monday ruled against Zhang, depriving him of his co-ownership of the apartment based on a note he wrote in 2007 that stated he did not pay any money for the apartment.
However, Zhang said he was forced to write the note after he tried to break up with Zhan.
"I paid part of the down payment on the apartment and continued to pay the mortgage after Zhan left Shanghai for work in 2004. The only reason I wrote the note was that he threatened me with death after I tried to break up with him," Zhang said.
Zhang's lawyer, Zhong Chengjiang with the Haihua Yongtai Law Firm, said the note should not be the basis of the ruling.
"We have the record of Zhang's payment on the apartment and a witness who can testify to it, but the court simply ignored them."
Zhan and his lawyer, Yu Zhiyuan, refused to comment on the ruling, while Zhang said he plans to appeal.
"There is not a specific law or regulation covering common property settlement issues among homosexual couples in China," said Zhou Dan, a lawyer with Shanghai Shaogang Law Firm, who has broad experience in homosexual cases.
The Marriage Law, which covers property disputes amongst couples, does not cover homosexuals, as they are not allowed to get married in China. The disputes are settled according to the relevant civil laws, which are not specific, said Zhou.
"When it comes to gay couples, disputes can be dealt with as if they are two separate investors in an investment. But, practically, the problem could become very complicated and hard to solve, as it's hard to tell who paid how much for what."
Despite gay marriage being forbidden in China and a lack of legislation on the issues pertaining to same-sex couples, the country has been moving forward in its tolerance of homosexuality. A law that defined homosexual activities a crime of hooliganism was abolished in 1997 and homosexuality was delisted as a mental disorder in 2001.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health show that China has 5 to 10 million gay people, though it is estimated there are now 35 million homosexuals nationwide.
A 2008 survey by well-known sexologist Li Yinhe showed 91 percent of respondents said they agreed with homosexuals having equal employment rights, while more than 80 percent of respondents agreed that heterosexuals and homosexuals were "equal individuals".