Official turns big profit on graveyard

Updated: 2013-03-20 07:15

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Authorities have launched a probe into a lawmaker who reportedly earned more than 300 million yuan ($48.24 million) after he was contracted to run a public cemetery in Lufeng, Guangdong province.

The Guangdong Provincial Department of Civil Affairs has also asked the civil affairs bureau of Lufeng to investigate.

Illegal contracts by individuals and companies involving public cemeteries should be terminated, according to a department notice quoted by Nanfang Daily on Tuesday.

"No public cemeteries can be used for commercial purposes," said the notice.

Lin Yaochang, a local business owner, has been dubbed "Grandpa of Graves" after a resident reported that Lin earned a large sum of money after receiving a contract for Anfu Cemetery in Lufeng city's Tanxi township in July 2008.

Lin, a deputy to the local legislature, reportedly built and managed the cemetery and then sold the graves for more than 2,000 yuan a square meter. More than 8,000 graves have been sold so far. Anfu Cemetery, which covers 8.41 hectares, is the first public cemetery in Lufeng that is under the administration of Shanwei city.

Lin Yaochang was fined 80,000 yuan, according to Nanfang Daily report.

The Lufeng bureau of civil affairs refused to comment on the case while it was still being investigated.

Lin Huabin, Party chief of Tanxi township where Anfu Cemetery is located, did not answer any media questions.

Ding Li, a researcher with the Guangdong Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said public cemeteries should not be used by companies and individuals for profit.

"Public cemeteries should be built to serve the people, instead of seeking big profits," Ding said.

"Local government should consider long-term interests, not immediate interests," he said.

Government departments can seek management companies to help run public cemeteries via public bidding and offer the service to people through government purchases, according to Ding.

"Meanwhile, government can control the investment in the construction of public cemeteries, set price ceilings and subsidize non-profit companies that manage cemeteries," he added.

(China Daily 03/20/2013 page5)