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Shanghai High Court Categorises Bitcoin as Virtual Property Subject to Legal Protection

China’s expulsion of crypto miners and other judgements had effectively restricted crypto trading and associated operations within its borders, but a recent judgment from the country’s Shanghai High People’s Court finds Bitcoin to be a virtual asset with economic value that is protected by Chinese law. The judgement arrived in connection with a lawsuit filed in district court in October 2020 involving the recovery of a 1 Bitcoin loan and will provide some relief to the crypto community in the country.

According to a report by Sina, the Shanghai High People’s Court issued a statement on its official WeChat channel confirming that Bitcoin is regarded as virtual property. The court notice states, “In the actual trial practice, the People’s Court has formed a unified opinion on the legal position of Bitcoin and identified it as a virtual property.”

It added that Bitcoin “has a certain economic value and conforms to the property’s attributes, the legal rules of property rights are applied for protection.”

It is worth noting that in China, the highest municipal court is the high people’s court, which is preceded by the people’s courts and intermediate people’s courts. They are directly controlled by the central government and have a structure that is identical to that of the Supreme People’s Court — the highest court in the country.

The statement was made in relation to a case involving a Bitcoin-related dispute between two individuals. An individual named Cheng Mou had filed a lawsuit with the Shanghai Baoshan District People’s Court in October last year demanding that an individual named Shi Moumou return his 1 BTC. When the defendant failed to do so, the case was returned to the court, which held a mediation.

Since the defendant no longer had possession of the Bitcoin, the parties agreed that the defendant would provide compensation at a discount from the value of the Bitcoin at the time of the loan.

While the case is still pending in China’s lower courts, the decision might be significant since it establishes a precedent for how virtual assets are viewed under Chinese law.

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