AP

A transgender man's victorious court challenge in China has drawn rare attention to trans rights in the country.

The man, who goes by the pseudonym Mr. C to protect his identity, alleged that he had been fired from a health care company, Ciming Health Check-up Center, because of his gender identity. He initially filed a complaint with a labor arbitration board last year, which awarded him minimal back wages but ruled that the company had not broken any laws in firing him.

A representative for the company told the Associated Press they had not discriminated against Mr. C in terminating his employment. Though the court ruled in his favor this week—ruling that he had been unfairly dismissed—they didn't concede that he had been fired because he was transgender, limiting the impact of this victory on future cases.

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“I have always said this case was never about the money,” Mr. C told the Guardian. “This lawsuit was about three things: dignity, raising awareness of transgender and other sexual minorities, and pushing for anti-discrimination legislation.”

He said he would pursue further appeals to call for an apology from the company and acknowledgement that he was discriminated against.

Despite the limitations of the ruling, Mr. C's court battle was China's first high-profile case of alleged gender identity workplace discrimination, starting a conversation about the obstacles that face Chinese trans people. An estimated 9.5 million transgender people live in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, The Atlantic reports. There are no federal protections against gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination in Chinese labor law.

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"China’s employee protection regulations are very vague," Huang Sha, Mr. C's lawyer, told Time Out Shanghai. "There are simply no special stipulations about transgender rights protection. I accepted Mr C’s case because his claims [of wrongful dismissal] did have a basis in law."

Huang Sha continued: "I’m optimistic that things will get better for trans people in China. But I don’t foresee any big changes in the next decade."