Fines sought to curb speculation on graves
Authorities are considering imposing hefty fines on cemetery operators who sell tombs without receiving a death certificate for the deceased, to curb runaway speculation on burial land.
Experts and officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, who met in Nanjing last week to discuss modifying the Burial Management Regulation, said the new rule would forbid cemetery operators from selling tombs to buyers without first seeing death certificates for the deceased. Violators would face a fine of up to 500,000 yuan, Xinhua reported.
The current regulation allows a maximum, 4-square-metre tomb for burial or 1-square-metre tomb for cremation, but cemetery operators often evade the regulation by saying larger tombs are reserved for future burials within the family. The law also forbids interment of bodies except for some ethnic minorities and in remote rural areas, due to the shortage of farming land.
Citing an unnamed source, the report said operators who sold tombs larger than the permitted size also would face punishment under the proposed amendment.
With property prices soaring across the country, the price of burial land has shot up in recent years, with people buying tombs as an investment.
A tomb can cost more than 10,000 yuan per square metre - more expensive than the average price of a house in most mainland cities - and cemetery operators are enjoying 'shockingly high' profits, with some seeing a return of as much as 300 per cent, the report said.
A cemetery in Shenyang groups its tombs in three categories - regular, high-end and luxury - with the luxury ones occupying 20 square metres and costing at least 300,000 yuan. A European-style tomb in white marble costs 28,000 yuan per square metre. The report said some tombs could cost up to 800,000 yuan.
The expensive tombs turned people into 'tomb slaves', the report said, drawing a parallel to 'house slaves' - people who have to live a frugal life to pay off their exorbitant mortgages.