Anhui officials dig up and burn 83-year-old farmer’s corpse amid row with family

Government forcibly cremates peasant after relatives refused to comply with arbitrarily enforced cremation law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 6:02pm

Officials in a mainland village in Anhui province dug up a man’s corpse and set fire to it after his family ignored their demand that he be cremated rather than buried, state media reported on Tuesday.

The case is an extreme example of the country’s unevenly enforced funeral policy, which tries to encourage cremation rather than interment, given the wide range of alternative uses for land.

But traditional Chinese belief holds that an intact corpse buried in the earth allows the dead person’s soul to live in peace.

They [officials] wouldn’t let us get near
Cheng Yinzhu, daughter

Confucian edicts say that ensuring one’s body, hair and skin are not damaged is the most basic way to show respect to one’s parents as they are gifts from them.

Cheng Chaomu, an 83-year-old peasant, was buried at Qinfeng in the eastern province of Anhui three days after his December 13 death. Family members said interment was his “dying wish”, the state-run China Daily reported.

When they learned of the burial, local officials demanded that the family dig up Cheng’s body and cremate it, the paper reported.

Relatives ignored the order and the officials, along with police and firefighters, dug up Cheng’s coffin, poured petrol on it and ignited it.

“They wouldn’t let us get near,” Cheng’s daughter, Cheng Yinzhu, told the Anhui TV station, which also aired footage of police and villagers confronting each other after the forced cremation.

Since the 1950s China has called for most city residents to be cremated and last year the national cremation rate was 49.5 per cent, China Daily reported.

Some cities have also begun offering bonuses for families who scatter their loved ones’ ashes at sea.

Earlier this month the State Council, or cabinet, and the Communist Party’s Central Committee ordered party members and officials to “set an example with simple, civilised funerals” and choose cremation whenever possible.

Yet traditional burials remain popular among many Chinese, with land in some cemeteries reaching tens of thousands of US dollars per half-metre plot.

Chinese law does not make clear what the penalty is for those who flout orders to cremate their loved ones’ remains, China Daily noted.

The State Council last year abolished a rule allowing for forced cremation but did not replace it with any other policy.