New cremation rule in China shakes old traditions

New cremation rule in China shakes old traditions
Family members carry a coffin containing the body of Zheng Shifang, 83, up a hill in Lyuting, a village in Anqing, Anhui province, on Sunday. Zheng hanged herself on May 23. New rules requiring cremation are scheduled to take effect on June 1.

Authorities in Anqing, Anhui province, say there was no direct relationship between the alleged suicides of several elderly rural residents and the coming burial reforms that require corpses to be cremated.

The Oriental Morning Post in Shanghai published an article saying that six local elderly people committed suicide so their bodies could be buried legally in coffins.

Starting June 1, all corpses must be cremated, according to a notice from the Anqing government on March 25.

After the suicide allegations were published, Anhui provincial government investigated. It found that the deaths had nothing to do with funeral reform, according to an unnamed official with the civil affairs department.

"The newspaper's report is biased, as it cited no genuine facts, and some of the quotes are just the reporter's guesses," said an official surnamed Zhang from the Anqing publicity department.

One 27-year-old resident of a county-level city under Anqing, Yao Xuefei, said on Wednesday in a phone interview that he had not heard of an elderly person committing suicide because of the coming reform.

But resistance to forced cremations among some of the area's oldest residents, especially those in their 80s or 90s, is apparent, he said, adding that younger individuals have taken the reform with greater ease.

"Some of the elderly insist on being buried because of a deeply rooted superstition. It is still very hard to persuade them to accept new concepts," Yao said.

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