China: Tomb raiders arrested over 'ghost marriages'

An empty grave Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The "ghost brides" ritual is now mostly practiced in rural parts of China

Eleven people have been arrested in eastern China for allegedly stealing women's corpses for use in "ghost marriages", it's been reported.

They're accused of exhuming a woman's body from a village in Shandong province and selling it on the black market, the South China Morning Post reports. The "ghost marriage" ritual requires bachelors who have died to be buried next to a woman's body "so that he won't be alone in the afterlife", the website says. It's an increasingly rare practice in modern China, and now mainly happens in rural areas.

One of the accused was shown on Shandong's local state TV channel saying a corpse could be sold for between 16,000 and 20,000 yuan ($2,600-$3,300; £1,600-£2,000), and that bodies are only valuable if they have been recently buried. "A body buried for years is worthless," he says. The woman's body was later sold again to a bereaved family in neighbouring Hebei province for 38,000 yuan, the TV reports.

Stealing corpses is a criminal offence in China, punishable by up to three years in prison. In 2013, four men in northern Shanxi province were jailed for stealing 10 women's bodies and faking their medical records, in order to charge more for them on the black market.

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