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“Looking for Dead Bodies” – Tragedies Under China’s Cremation Policy

For many years and in most areas, China has implemented a compulsory cremation policy. In some small towns that believe in Feng Shui, however, people still try to bury their deceased family members. Some have even tried to find a replacement dead body to cremate and in some cases, people have been killed because of it. It has become a secret practice in the funeral industry.

An article, “Looking for a Dead Body” that Sohu published on April 7 was quickly deleted. The article exposed a case in Shanwei City of Guangdong province in which a family offered to pay for a replacement “dead body” for the deceased father because the father said he didn’t want to be cremated after he dies. In 2017, after the father passed away, the family paid 107,000 yuan (US$16,315) for a dead body to replace the father in the cremation. A local coffin driver ended up killing a mentally handicapped person and swapped the body for cremation. A court paper showed how, in January of this year, the driver was arrested and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

In 1997, China implemented new funeral regulations. They stipulated that cremation is implemented except for ethnic minorities and in a few regions. The main reason is the land scarcity due to population growth. In Shanwei city where the murder case was reported, it ranked the bottom in the nation on implementing the cremation policy. The city didn’t enforce the ban on burial and the sale of coffins until 2012. However, many people still find ways to bury their deceased relative secretly. They may swap with another dead human or an animal body. There have been at least four other similar cases reported in Lufeng region of Shanwei city. Many of the replacement dead bodies are homeless people, beggars, or elderly people living alone.

Some funeral homes also take the opportunity to accept bribes from people who want to have the deceased family member buried. A Sohu report disclosed one incident in 2014, in which one funeral home asked for 60,000 yuan (US$9,149) to replace the body. Almost all of the wealthy families in the region have paid for a replacement body so they could bury their dead family members.

Source: Central News Agency, April 9, 2021