Burial laws spark violent protest

Updated: 2012-05-08 07:59

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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A clash between villagers and law enforcement officers over funeral and burial reforms was settled peacefully in Haifeng county, Guangdong province, over the weekend.

Several police officers were slightly injured in the rioting and four police cars plus two other government vehicles were turned over and damaged by the villagers.

"None of the villagers and local residents were hurt during the events," said Xie Liqun, deputy head of the county publicity department.

"And so far, no one has been detained, and the unrest has come to an end," Xie told China Daily on Monday.

"Police officers exercised self-control to pacify the villagers and onlookers during the event," he said.

The clash broke out in Haifeng's Chikeng township on Saturday morning when the township's burial ceremony supervision team and local Shada village committee jointly issued a notice asking a villager named Zeng to cremate the dead body of his 103-year-old grandmother.

The notice said Zeng had violated the county's funeral regulations by burying his grandmother, who died of illness several days earlier.

Zeng refused to comply and carried his 70-year-old ailing father to the village committee to protest.

Zeng has many family members in the village and his protest attracted more than 100 onlookers, who later besieged and attacked law enforcement officers and overturned and damaged police cars.

In addition to police officers sent to restore order, top Party and government officials of Haifeng county went to the scene to help resolve the unrest.

The onlookers were finally persuaded by the police officers and other county and township officials to disperse at 11:50 pm.

Zeng's father was also taken to a hospital in the county for treatment.

Xie said Haifeng is a county that still promotes cremation. But the practice is not accepted by some residents, particularly in the rural areas where many farmers prefer burials, he said.

Wang Fuquan, a white-collar worker in Guangzhou, said that the clash indicated a communication gap between the local township government and villagers.

"Local government departments have to give more attention to promoting cremation, especially in remote areas, to avoid repeats of the event in the coming months," he said.