China may soon have a set of laws offering legal status to Bitcoin and other digital currencies in the country. The laws offering rights to virtual property and data is part of the recently released draft of the People’s Republic of China General Principles of Civil Law.
According to reports, the new draft law was created as part of the recent Conference of the NPC Standing Committee. The draft is created keeping the changing global economic landscape in mind. It is said to consider virtual networks, data, and information as properties almost on par with physical and financial assets, thereby bringing them under the purview of Civil rights that are applicable to property in general.
If implemented into the statute, the new draft will automatically consider bitcoin and other digital currency holdings as private property, making the owner eligible for legal protection against fraud and theft. So far, digital currencies did not have any legal status in the country, which was exploited by criminals and confidence men to create elaborate investment programs and pyramid schemes.
Bitcoin and other virtual properties are conferred legal status by the amendments made to Article 111 and Article 108. Article 111 deals with rights associated with movable and immovable properties while the Article 108 is meant for intellectual property rights.
Earlier, the Chinese constitution was amended in 2004 to introduce Civil laws governing the individual’s rights to personal property. The list of things considered as personal property according to the 2004 amendment includes lawful income, housing, savings, household items, books, reference materials, trees and livestock. The laws also extended to cover the means to the livelihood that enables a person to lawfully generate income. There was no mention of virtual property in the amendment, leaving virtual data and goods out of the legal protection guaranteed by the constitution.
The new draft law leaves a lot to be desired, as it doesn’t completely cover the digital currency assets, like in the case of recent changes made to the Japanese laws. China is still far from recognizing bitcoin as a form of currency and the protections extended by the latest draft of the Civil law is limited to the Constitution’s definition of property (not currency).
However, it is a good start for China and a sign that the Chinese bureaucrats have come to terms with Bitcoin being an alternative currency and a medium of exchange of value.