Judges urge lovers to take care with expensive gifts
Beijing judges have urged lovers to be careful when giving presents, especially expensive ones, if they cannot be sure their relationship is destined to result in marriage.
As China’s economy develops and people’s living standards improve, some sweethearts have taken to showing their affection with luxurious gifts, but such precious presents may bring trouble.
In September 2010, a woman named Sun and a man named E fell in love when they took part in a television program. E bought a BMW for about 300,000 yuan ($49,500) for Sun, aiming to show his love for her, according to a statement provided by Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court.
After the couple broke up, E sued Sun, asking her to return the car, the court said.
In the past three years, the court has dealt with 101 such cases, and the number of such disputes is still increasing.
The court handled 23 such cases in 2011 and 46 in 2013, the statement said, adding that the value of the presents involved has become higher, with gifts such as luxurious cars or even real estate.
Similar disputes are more common at grassroots courts, including Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court.
From 2011 to 2013, the district’s court heard around 150 such cases, with about 20 disputes each year over gifted houses.
“The people involved in the cases were not sensible after they fell in love. Many of them simply thought sending gifts was an effective or direct way to please their lovers,” said Zuo Feng, deputy head of the civil case department of Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court.
Gifts of luxurious cars, jewelry, famous-brand watches and even real estate have become popular among lovers, “because in their minds, more expensive gifts show their deeper affection for their lovers”, Zuo said.
In most cases, the gifts were not returned, as per Chinese Civil Law, because they were gifts to former lovers. However, if the gifts could be proved to be engagement presents, a dowry or bride price, they must be returned to the giver, according to judicial interpretation of the Marriage Law.
In the case of the BMW, Sun finally had to return the car to E, because the court found he gave it as an engagement gift.
However, it is a challenge for people to prove that a present is for an engagement or a planned marriage, said Hou Chenyang, a judge at the court.
“Few people could explain the gift’s meaning when they were in love, let alone keep evidence,” Hou said. “For example, a man sent a diamond ring to his girlfriend with only some romantic words. He thought the gift was given for an engagement, but the ex-girlfriend argued it was given as her birthday present.”
Cheng Yi, a judge in Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court, said lovers should clearly explain the meaning of luxurious gifts given during a relationship, “which sounds a little bit cold-blooded, but doing so can avoid possible disputes”.
If couples want to give engagement gifts to each other, Cheng suggested doing so in front of their parents or close friends.
“After all, few people leave written evidence of the gift’s meaning. So doing so with family members as witnesses is better. What’s more, if the present is given for a planned marriage, their relatives should be notified according to Chinese tradition,” she said.
Li Minglei, a judge at the intermediate people’s court, said some people ask for expensive gifts for their own interest or just play with love.
In a case Li ruled on, a woman swindled thousands of yuan from her boyfriend by saying she had been arrested in Guangdong province for taking drugs.
“The woman often asked for luxurious gifts from her boyfriend to support her lifestyle. Finally, she was punished for fraud,” Li said.