A Legal Dose of Desire


Everyone has desires, but we often think that desire should be limited and that the law is the last line we can draw in terms of applying it. But what we do not know, and what can surprise us, is that too much of a limit on desire may in fact be illegal.

Zhang Liang (pseudonym), a citizen of Weihai, Shandong province, has been married to his wife for 2 years. At some point, his wife asked Zhang to hand over his bankcard because he was such a big spender. After the birth of their baby, the wife worried that the family’s expenses might be too large and that she could not make ends meet. After confiscating the bankcard, the wife gave her husband ¥1,000 per month. Soon after, Zhang realised that he had little money and became panicked. He went out to dinner with his friends, bought game cards and cigarettes, resulting in his monthly allowance being completely spent in just 2 weeks. He reached out to his wife for money, but she subsequently turned him down and complained that he did not care about his family. Zhang began to grow very depressed, and believed his wife had implemented a form of domestic violence on him. He and his wife argued several times, often ending with the pair giving each other the respective “cold shoulder”; their relationship deteriorating as a result.

Zhang’s relationship with his wife is commonplace, but could such a limitation be considered domestic violence?

In fact, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China, Article 2 states, “For the purpose of this Law, ‘domestic violence’ means the inflicting of physical, psychological or other harm by a family member on another by beating, trussing, injury, restraint and forcible limits on personal freedom, recurring verbal abuse, threats and other means”. And according to the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Application of the Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China (I) Article 1, “the term ‘family violence’ as mentioned in Articles 3, 32, 43, 45 and 46 of the Marriage Law, refers to a behaviour whereby a person causes a certain consequence of physical or mental injuries to his or her family member(s) by blow, binding, cruel injury, forced restriction of personal freedom or by other means”.

Recurring or frequent family violence constitutes maltreatment, and therefore domestic violence is far more than punching and kicking and other forms of physical abuse; it also includes mental attack or abuse.

Therefore, it turns out it may be illegal to limit a family member’s desire for consumption. To determine whether or not it is indeed domestic violence, we need look specifically at the impact of this approach on family members. Some people spend very little, go to work and eat with little additional expenditure. Perhaps for people living in Weihai, as little as ¥500 each month is enough on which to live. As a result, the confiscation of a bankcard to limit the spending of money would not amount to a form of domestic violence.

However, in the case of Zhang and his wife, confiscating his bankcard restricts his expenditure, which in turn affects his life, and results in Zhang feeling controlled. With the couple’s relationship suffering accordingly, this can be deemed as domestic violence. Due to the concealment of such forms of domestic violence, this kind of abuse is seldom known to outsiders and even the parties involved may not realise that they are themselves the perpetrators of domestic violence.

A certain degree of limiting our desires can be a good thing; it makes the desired more desirable, but one should remember to keep it under the legal dose.


This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness. For more information please visit dandreapartners.com or WeChat: dandreapartners.

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Legal columnist Carlo D’Andrea is Chair of the Legal & Competition Working group of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China; Shanghai Chapter, Coordinator of the Nanjing Working Group of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China and has taught Chinese law (commercial and contractual) at Rome 3 University. 法律作家代开乐担任中国欧盟商会上海分会法律与竞争工作组主席,中国意大利商会劳动集团的协调员与曾经在罗马三大担任企业咨询课程中中国商法、合同法的课程教授。