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China Trespassing Law: Welcome Or Not?

China lawyers

Not sure how relevant this is to China business law, but it sure makes for a fascinating read, at least for us China lawyers. Law Professor Donald Clarke recently wrote a fascinating post entitled No trespassing in Chinese law?  The post convincingly argues that Chinese law does not prohibit trespassing, which essentially means that if someone wants to stay in your apartment or house even after you have asked them to leave, they are free to do so:

It’s hard to believe – and to the best of my knowledge it’s not true – that in China you can simply waltz into someone’s living room (provided the door is unlocked) and make yourself comfortable provided you act with restraint and are willing to compensate for any damage you cause. But the legal basis for saying you can’t is surprisingly obscure.

Not sure of the legal ramifications of this, but I do suggest you lock your doors and not let anyone in unless you know you have no problem with their staying. And staying.

18 responses to “China Trespassing Law: Welcome Or Not?”

  1. I have no idea about the legalities of all this, but it reminds me that at the first university I worked at in Beijing, there were people living in a room they had occupied in the main administration building. A colleague who had become the lead foreign teacher through sheer length of service (he’d been there about 18 years at that time, and so far as I know he’s still there) explained that they had claimed a room in the admin building back during the cultural revolution, and after the cultural revolution, when the universities were reopened and intellectuals began to be rehabilitated, they refused to leave the room they had occupied, and had been there ever since. He said that under Chinese law, occupation is ownership (he’s a linguist, not a lawyer, and I can’t and won’t vouch for this statement) and therefore the university could do nothing about them.

  2. Chris, that is an awesome story. I sure hope it turns out to be true — on the one hand, visits from in-laws could potentially be even worse; on the other hand, there’s this nearly-finished modern courtyard going up around the corner from me, and if I could just hole up in there overnight when the workers were away…

  3. A friend of mine here in Suzhou who is a General Manager suffered that sort of invasion in his factory. It was sort of funny in the telling, though he was not at all happy while it was happening to him. I wrote about the episode (case study? ;-?) in my post: How Things Really Work Around Here (2): The Peasant Posse Rides into Suzhou.

  4. chriswaugh,
    Ah, that stuff goes on at every school. At my college, there was a guy (man I wish I could remember his name because it sounded like it came right out of a Coen Brothers movie) who lived in a three room triple for nearly the whole year until someone discovered he was not a student!!!! This at a tiny college in the middle of nowhere.

  5. Brendan,
    I like that, but maybe you should think even bigger. Presidential Suite at the Shangri-La? Of course, there is law and then there is power and there has to be a point where power trumps law. But, I suggest you stake out that courtyard and report back to us daily.

  6. This is China!
    Great story. The thing is that police everywhere have real trouble with mixed issues of civil and criminal law. I remember maybe ten years ago when an employee of my clients company downloaded a company database that contained all of the company clients. I demanded the police arrest this guy for theft but they refused. I also got a call from a thug who told me that if I sued him he would report my client to the FBI as a member of the Russian mafia (which he most certainly was not!). I reported this blackmail to the police but they refused even to go talk to him even though this was clearly a crime. It goes on and on.

  7. Dan, how can you say Grinnell is in the middle of nowhere when it is only around 50 miles from Ottumwa? I urge you to issue a retraction.

  8. Law only comes into effect once the police arrive, until then power prevails. Dealing with squatters is a simple matter of having weapons/larger numbers or in a place like China pay a couple of thugs to drag the squatters out. Of course, the police will do that too for a small fee, then the squatters have to deal with power and the power of rule by man.

  9. China has no specific civil or criminal law against trespass, but that is because China’s legal system is copied from those of Roman/German law systems which also don’t have specific civil or criminal laws.
    The way that China deals with trespass as a legal issue is pretty much the same as how other civil law nations deal with it. Chinese law defines a set of abstract rights associated with property and trespass is considered an infringement of those general rights.
    The only thing that is unusual about the Chinese legal system is that the state has “ownership rights” over all land, with individuals having “use rights”, but the division between ownership and use rights is not unique to China, and in China it applies only to land and not buildings.
    Chinese/German civil law is very different from American/English common law in a number of ways, and how the systems handle trespass is one of them. My impression is that common law lawyers are sometimes very uncomfortable at the abstract nature of German civil law, and the fact that people are looking for a specific reference to trespass as opposed using general legal principles to define it is a symptom of this.

  10. To sharpen my previous comments. It is *NOT* the case that Chinese law does not prohibit trespass. It’s merely that it does it in a way that lawyers from common law jurisdictions are not used to.
    Comparative law is interesting because you find that there are dozens of radically different ways of doing the same thing.

  11. Legally speaking,it is beyond doubt that you can not trespass someone’s house/something else without a permission.
    Just maybe that is not the way American/English do.
    As a part of the Property Law just past last year,no one can trespass your property at will.

  12. I’m a little disappointed that there haven’t been more of the obvious Chinese in-law jokes that this post is plainly begging for. The last time my in-laws visited, they brought bags and bags of food and assorted animal parts. They then proceeded to empty out my freezer and rearrange my fridge in order to make room for the stuff. They unilaterally decided that certain items I had in there didn’t really need to be refrigerated: cheese, milk, frozen pizza, ice cubes, just to name a few . These ended up on the counter. It must have been coincidence that these were things they weren’t familiar with or didn’t want to eat.
    And, of course, there was the time last summer, when my brother-in-law came for a short visit … and left three months later, but only because I finally lost it and told my wife he had to move out. My wife is still punishing me for that.

  13. You all have hyper-focused on a narrow aspect of the law. There are so many aspects law that are not yet on the books in China. This is a country taking baby steps.

  14. I couldn’t figure out why so many people were coming to my site from this post, and I had to hover my mouse over your links to see why.
    You linked my site to law geeks. Not sure why, but it’s kind of funny to have people sent to my blog. They probably get there from your site and wonder why you linked to mine.
    Thanks for the link…I think…lol

  15. Hi, Guys,
    Article 40 of Public Security Law of the PRC provides that a person that illegally invades other person’s home shall be detained for a period from 10 – 15 days and be imposed a fine of RMB 500 – 1000 Yuan.
    You can call police and sure they will come to you for that.

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