Rebuilt graves must be leveled

By Li Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-19 1:08:01

The government in Zhoukou, Henan Province is demanding residents level the graves they rebuilt after the city carried out a campaign of tomb removal last year, which met strong opposition from locals and sparked public outrage.

A village official in Fugou county of Zhoukou, who asked not to be named, confirmed to the Global Times on Monday that he had received orders to take down the reconstructed tombs. "The township authority called me on Sunday and said all the graves that were rebuilt during Spring Festival must be leveled within three days."

Zhao Keluo, a former member of the Henan provincial committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said he was removed as a member in late 2012 because of his strong opposition to tomb-removal campaign.

Zhao said on his Sina Wei-bo that the same order was sent to officials in the county of Shangshui. It said a fine between 500 yuan ($80) and 1,000 yuan would be imposed on families that fail to follow the order and the graves of their relatives will be forcibly leveled.

Calls by the Global Times to the county governments of Fugou and Shangshui went unanswered Monday. An official from the civil affair bureau in Zhoukou said he had not heard of such an order.

The city government started a tomb removal campaign in March 2012, and about 2 million tombs were leveled within the year and the government regained about 2,000 hectares of land, said a Xinhua report.

"The remains in tombs were not removed to pubic cemeteries, and the residents have no where to worship their ancestors," Zhao said, adding that some public cemeteries were built as the campaign started, but they were simple and not well maintained.

The village official in Fugou county said three public cemeteries were built in his village in the past year in cooperation with the campaign but no family has built a tomb there.

"One grave costs 300 yuan and if you want a tombstone the price is much higher," he said, noting that the families whose ancestors' graves were leveled did not receive any subsidy. 

The campaign was suspended in November 2012, after the central government amended the regulation on the management of funerals and interment, cancelling an article that allowed government officials to remove tombs by force.

An official from the city's civil affair bureau said the removal campaign would not end but they will change their methods, the Legal Daily reported.

"The major drive behind the campaign is the local government's need for industrial land rather than returning the land to agriculture," said Zheng Fengtian, a deputy dean with the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the Renmin University of China.

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