Tianjin public cemetery ordered to suspend operations after illegally selling apartment-style tombs

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/2 18:03:40

Screenshot from a video clip from caijing.com.cn

A public cemetery built in the form of residential buildings located in North China's Tianjin was ordered to suspend its operations after it illegally sold some 3,000 apartment-style tombs to house nearly 100,000 urns at an average price of 7,000 yuan ($1,025.33) per square meter.

The "apartment-style" public cemetery, which cost the developer 300 million yuan to renovate, is ineligible for further sale, according to Tianjin's land and housing regulations. The cemetery changed its sales contract into a long-term rent of 50 years to dodge regulations, according to an undercover report from news site caijing.com.cn.

A staffer surnamed Wang from the publicity department of Zhongtang town government, where the cemetery is located, told the Global Times on Wednesday that an investigation team has been established to investigate the incident and all operations of the cemetery have been suspended. 

Consisting of 16 buildings, the cemetery compound is located in Zhongtang town of Binhai New Area. Although it appears to look like a common residential compound from the outside, the windows of the cemetery apartments are blacked-out. 

There are about 25 apartments — or tombs — on each floor of the compound's five-story buildings, with the areas of apartments ranging from 20 to 50 square meters. 

Signboards with family names and red paper flowers were seen hanging on the doors of each apartment, while the compound's tombs were almost sold out, according to a staffer of the cemetery.

While the tombs in the basement are the highest-priced because they are close to earth, those near the top are available at a much cheaper rate. According to Chinese superstition and traditional burial customs, only if deceased people are buried in the earth to rest can their family members feel at ease. 

As Tianjin carries out its funeral reform, more and more locals choose to buy apartments as their "family ancestral temples" to store the ashes of their deceased family members, rather than placing them alongside others' urns. 

Although the building-style ancestral temples did not see many sales six years ago when the cemetery was first opened, its price has since risen from 3,000 yuan to 7,000 yuan per square meter. 

At present, over 3,000 families have placed near 100,000 urns at the cemetery.

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