China officials 'buy corpses to meet cremation quota'

This picture taken on November 25, 2012 shows tombstones at a public cemetery that was built for the 'flatten graves to return farmland' campaign in suburb Zhoukou, central China's Henan province. Zhoukou has halted a campaign to clear graves for farmland after the demolition of more than two million tombs sparked outrage in a country where ancestors are traditionally held in deep respect. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many in China believe the body must be intact for a peaceful afterlife

Two officials in Guangdong province have been arrested after they allegedly bought corpses from grave robbers to have them cremated, Chinese media say.

They said they were trying to ensure government quotas on the number of cremations every month were met.

In Chinese tradition, relatives are buried with tombs built so that loved ones can perform ancestor worship.

However, the Chinese government has encouraged cremations to save land for farming and development.

In June, a resident of Beiliu city in southern China Guangxi region reported that his grandfather's body had been stolen from the graveyard.

In July, police in Beiliu arrested a grave robber, surnamed Zhong based on an investigation, official news agency Xinhua said, citing Chinese media.

Zhong confessed he had stolen more than 20 corpses from graveyards in local villages at night. He said he put then into bags and transported them into neighbouring Guangdong province.

Zhong also alleged that he had sold the bodies to two officials in Guangdong.

The two officials, surnamed He and Dong, who were in charge of implementing funeral management reform, were arrested last week.

They told police they had bought the corpses to meet the government quota on cremations.

Dong is said to have paid 3,000 yuan ($489, £306) each for 10 corpses. The official surnamed He said he paid 1,500 yuan for each corpse but how many he bought is unknown.

The government policy has angered many, especially in rural parts of China, because of the traditional belief that the body must be intact for a peaceful afterlife.

Chinese media have reported cases of people committing suicide before the cremation regulations were put in place so that they may get a burial.

Other reports have alleged some family members are burying their loved ones in secret to get around the restriction.

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