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Lunar New Year

Daughter sues parents for ‘embezzling’ US$9,200 of red envelope money

All money should go to the intended recipient, according to a judicial ruling. But not everyone agrees

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 1:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 11:12am

Chinese internet users have been arguing about whether red envelopes – filled with cash and given as gifts during the Lunar New Year – should go to children or their parents, after a court published rulings on several cases.

The court in Jinan, eastern China’s Shandong province, published the information on its official Weibo account on Sunday.

The most recent case involved a university student from southwestern China’s Yunnan province, who sued her parents in 2016 claiming that they had embezzled 58,000 yuan (US$9,200) from red envelopes given to her as gifts over the years.

The woman, identified only as Juan, resorted to legal action after her mother and father, who are now divorced, refused to pay her university tuition fees. The court ruled in her favour and ordered her parents to pay her 1,500 yuan a month.

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Of the other cases listed by the Jinan court, the one involving the most money concerned a man who, along with his three children, successfully sued his former wife – their mother – for taking 560,000 yuan worth of red envelope cash that the plaintiffs claimed belonged to the children.

A court in the mother’s home city of Yueqing, eastern China’s Zhejiang province, ruled against her, saying that she misappropriated the money – which had been gifted to the children by their paternal grandmother in 2012 – when the couple got divorced.

She was ordered to return all of the money, with interest, to her children, all of whom were minors.

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It is traditional in China for married people to give red packets containing “lucky money” to children and unmarried younger people during the Lunar New Year holiday.

However, it is also quite common for parents to hold onto the money on behalf of their young children.

The Jinan court said in a separate post that “giving red envelopes is an act of giving, and the receiver of the act is the child. All of the rights related to red packets are transferred to the child”.

While it was the legal responsibility of guardians to manage and protect the property of people under their care, they were not entitled to misappropriate it, the Weibo statement said.

“Parents must make it clear to their children that they are only keeping the money for them and not taking it away. The money should remain under the ownership of the children who received it,” it said.

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Internet users had differing opinions on the subject.

“To be honest, people gave us red packets because our parents were also giving them out, so it’s fair,” a person said.

“Many parents think children are their own property, so of course they take the money as well,” another said.

Another comment, liked more than 300 times, said: “Try telling your mother that it is illegal for her to take your red packet money away. See whether she will scold you.”