Question on pigs' disposal cost gets evasive reply from minister

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 6:44am

Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo probably knew he would be asked how nearly 6,000 dead pigs ended up floating in Shanghai's Huangpu River.

At the National People's Congress yesterday, Li and vice-ministers Jiang Li and Dou Yupei arrived prepared - well, sort of.

When asked whether it was true the pigs were being dumped in the river because incinerating them was too costly, an uncomfortable Li replied by explaining the types of funeral services available for people.

Like a news reader reliant on a script, Li droned on about the importance of protecting people's livelihoods and developing social services.

"There are two types of funeral services; the basic funeral service and the selective funeral service. The former includes body transportation, preservation, cremation and the placing of ashes, at a price which the government sets," he said.

Li went on to explain about the types of caskets, rent for funeral halls, equipment and "luxurious funeral ceremonies".

Dou said it was a business best left in the hands of government, free from market distortions. "Like weddings, many of [the rich] have a tendency to want to make funerals opulent. This distorts their real price," he said.

Last year, the civil affairs ministry said there should be equal access to basic burial and funeral services by the end of 2015.

As for the reporter's question about the dumping of the pigs - it was left unanswered.