Who owns hongbao cash – parents or children? A Chinese court decides

Who owns the money in hongbao given to children?
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

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

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 its ruling on a related case.

The court in Jinan, eastern China’s Shandong province, published information about various cases from around the country on its official Weibo account on Sunday.

The most recent one 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.

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The woman, identified only as Juan, took the 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.

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 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”.

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People online have 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.”


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