Body snatchers face prosecution

Updated: 2014-11-03 07:56

By Zhang Yi(China Daily)

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Two officials in Guangdong province and a man from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region have been prosecuted for body snatching as they traded corpses for cremation to complete quotas in accordance with burial reform.

According to the police in Beiliu, in Guangxi, Dong Mouqing and He Mouming, officials in charge of funeral affairs in two counties in Guangdong bought dead bodies from Zhong Moufu, a body snatcher in Guangxi, and cremated the corpses in a local crematorium.

Dong, the head of the government general office in Nawu county, Huazhou, Guangdong province, was introduced to Zhong by his predecessor in November 2013 and asked Zhong to provide corpses at 3,000 yuan ($490) each.

Dong confessed to the police that he had bought 10 bodies from Zhong, who was required to place the stolen bodies in a cave in a mountain in Times Farmland, in Nawu, around midnight. Dong brought the bodies to a crematorium once a month by a car, under the name of the dead whose family had refused to cremate the body.

Zhong was caught after a man in a village of Beiliu reported to the police in June that his grandfather's body was stolen. The police investigated the case and also found that scores of bodies had been stolen in two villages in the southern part of Beiliu in recent years.

China has a long-standing custom of burying the dead. Cremation has been encouraged since the 1950s out of concern for land use, among other things. The national cremation rate reached nearly 50 percent in 2012.

In most places in China, cremation is required by law. In large cities, the cremation rate is almost 100 percent but in rural areas, burial remains the preferred choice.

For more than a decade, a certain quota of bodies for cremation each year was assigned to governments at all levels in Guangdong according to the death rate of the previous year. The number of bodies for cremation was set at the beginning of a year; however, the number was not allowed to change in line with the actual deaths in a year. To complete the quota, officials in local government came up with idea of buying dead bodies.

He, head of public affairs in Lotus county of Gaozhou in Guangdong province, said he reported the plan to purchase dead bodies from Guangxi to the county government and it was approved. He bought corpses from Zhong for 1,500 yuan each since the end of 2012.

Under the quota system, local governments in Guangdong have to buy quotas from others if there are not enough local deaths in a year. Trading quotas of bodies for cremation each year has been a popular business in the province during the past decade.

Traditional family and community cemeteries remain commonplace throughout rural China despite the requirement for cremation, and they seem likely to remain so unless government officials take a tough line to enforce the laws against burial.

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