Cremation deposit stirs dispute

By Xu Hailin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/9 23:28:40

3,000-yuan guarantee meant to promote eco-funerals

A local government of East China's Jiangsu Province has asked local residents pay a 3,000-yuan ($440) deposit following a family members' death only to be returned after confirmation of cremation of the deceased, a move the government claimed was made to push forward eco-friendly funeral reform.

The government of Jinsuo town, Suqian, asked villagers to pay the money right after the death of a relative, as a guarantee deposit. Villagers will get the deposit back when proven that the body was cremated and its ashes were put into a mourning hall or cemetery, Nanjing-based newspaper Modern Express reported on Saturday.

Some villagers said they have to pay the deposit in order to get a death certificate, which is a requirement for a crematorium to perform a cremation.

But the deposit has not been refunded even after one year, said the report.

"I paid 2,700 yuan in April 2017, but it has not yet been returned," a villager surnamed Sun was quoted by Modern Express as saying.

A local civil affairs official said the villager did not receive refund because he did not move the remains to a cemetery. "He will get the money after he fills in the grave mound."

The Suqian government has received complaints about the case months ago and confirmed the decision violates regulations, said Modern Express.

Authorities should take baby steps when pushing forward eco-friendly funeral reform, aggressive methods will damage the government's credibility and harm people's welfare, Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Moreover, Zhu noted the township government may have committed the crime of extortion by charging the fee.

Chinese authorities have promoted eco-friendly funeral reform for some years.

However, some local governments' aggressive actions, including the forced smashing of coffins in East China's Jianxi Province, have caused grievances among people and even violence.

In July, the government of Jiangxi's Ji'an county confiscated coffins, a move the government claimed to eliminate traditional burial and encourage cremation, which sparked a controversy within Chinese society.

"The funeral reform should be gradually implemented to give people sufficient time to accept the change," Zhu said.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs released a draft of funeral management regulations on Friday to solicit public opinions about the issue.

According to the draft, a basic funeral services system will be established by the government, which includes governance for the transport of dead bodies and cremation. People with financial difficulty will enjoy basic funeral services, including cremation and eco-friendly burial, for free.

The document also curbs the increasing price of graves in cemeteries. The price of a cemetery plot has risen to hundreds of thousands of yuan in some cities.

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