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17 J. Comp. L. 63 (2022)
Between Calmness and Passion: Cooling-off Divorces in China

handle is hein.journals/jrnatila17 and id is 69 raw text is: KWAN-YIU CHENG

Between Calmness and Passion:
Cooling-off Divorces in China
KWAN YIU CHENG*
As the famous Chinese proverb goes Family harmony brings the success of
everything (Jiahe wanshixing).1 Family stability has been a core traditional value
in Chinese societies. Married couples hope their marriage will be everlasting.
But not all marriages do last. Some marriages collapse. In fact, Chinese couples
now divorce more often than they have ever done so in history. As the country's
inaugural Civil Code came into effect 1 January 2021, a new regime of family
law has commenced twenty years since the last amendment of the marriage
law. Of particular interest is the requirement of a pre-divorce cooling-off period
under Article 1077. This new requirement has generated huge controversy and
sparked immense discussions on the country's leading social platforms since
being included in the draft Civil Code.2
The public did not respond well to the new rule. Opposition to the cooling-
off period was expressed in more than 30 million views online within a day
after the Civil Code was officially adopted by the Chinese legislature.3 It
triggered backlash from critics who felt the new law intruded into their freedom
to divorce.4 Some couples reportedly rushed to apply for divorce before the
compulsory cooling-off period came into effect.' Some raised concerns that the
requirement might endanger women suffering from domestic violence.6
The new law found support in the Chinese legal community for its legislative
aim of preventing divorces driven by emotional impulses, enhancing awareness
of family responsibilities, and safeguarding the stability of marriage and family
relationships.7 The cooling-off period is intended to be a buffer time for divorcing
* University of Hong Kong.
1 For the purposes of this article China refers to Mainland China, not including Hong Kong,
Macao, and Taiwan.
2 For example, as of 18 April 2021, the topic lihunlengjingqi (divorce cooling-off period) had
amassed over 1.4 billion views and 68 million discussions on Weibo Search.
3 L. Kuo, Anger in China at Law Ordering 'Cooling-off' Period Before Divorce, The Guardian
(Beijing, 29 May 2020).
4 J. Feng, More Babies, Fewer Divorces, and Sexual Harassment: Takeaways from China's New
Civil Code, SupChina (New York, 29 May 2020).
5 E. Chen and S. L. Wee, China's Plan to Slow Divorces Made Some Rush to Split Up New York
Times (28 February 2021).
6 J. Chan, Divorce Restrictions Endanger Women as Leaders Focus on Demographic Crisis,
China Digital Times (California, 3 March 2021).
7 Z. Wei, China's Civil Code People-Centric, Improves Legal System, People's Daily (Beijing,
18 May 2020).

JCL 17:1 (2022)     63

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