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Chinese internet hot and bothered over compulsory cooling-off period for quickie divorces

Chinese netizens have slammed a move to order a compulsory 30-day “cooling-off period” for divorcing couples. The measure was adopted as part of a new Civil Code passed on Thursday by the country’s parliament – the National People’s Congress in its annual full sitting.  

The idea has attracted controversy since it was first included in a draft of the Civil Code in 2018  as a response to soaring divorce rates in China. Under the measure, either party can withdraw a divorce application within 30 days if he or she regrets the decision. 

Divorce applications have spiked since the end of the coronavirus lockdown in many Chinese cities. In the southern economic powerhouse of Shenzhen, couples have to wait for weeks to book a divorce appointment. In April, the number of divorces in the city reached 84 per cent of the number of marriage registrations, according to the Shenzhen civil affairs bureau.

“Because of the lockdown, many couples had to spend more time with each other, only to find that they couldn’t stand each other anymore,” said Vicky Zhang, a divorce lawyer at the Jiangsu Shanggu Law Office.

At last week’s meeting, one deputy to the NPC proposed the move be shelved. 

“Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches, people who really want to divorce can’t wait even one day more. Less than five per cent of people who get divorced do so in haste, so it’s unreasonable to ask the majority to sacrifice for the minority,” said Jiang Shengnan.

Jiang’s remarks received enthusiastic support on the Chinese social media platform Weibo

“What we need is a ‘cooling-off period’ before getting married!” was the best-rated comment. 

But for NPC deputy Sun Xianzhong, who helped draft the law, five per cent of divorces initiated in haste is five per cent too many.

“Nowadays, people don’t take marriage seriously. We hope this ‘period’ can give them more time to think about the rights and obligations of marriage and to solve problems in marriage,” said Sun.

Netizens were keen to show their disapproval of Sun’s comments. One response, which simply said “Bah!!!!” quickly garnered around 9,000 likes on Weibo. 

The new Civil Code is due to take effect from 1st January 2021.

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