6 deaths linked to China ban on coffin burials

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.

CHINA - Six elderly people in China are said to have committed suicide to ensure that they died before new regulations banning coffin burials came into force, a newspaper reported yesterday.

In recent years, local governments across the country have demolished tombs as part of a national campaign encouraging cremation. Government officials in Anqing, a city in the eastern province of Anhui, ordered that all locals who died after June 1 should be cremated, the Beijing News daily reported.

Six elderly people in the area committed suicide "to avoid the new regulations on funerals", the newspaper quoted family members of the deceased as saying.

But the report added a note of scepticism, saying that the reasons for the suicides were "complex", despite the families' claims.

A 91-year-old woman named Wu Zhengde hanged herself on May 5 after learning of the new regulations, the report said.

Another woman, Zheng Shifang, 83, killed herself after officials sawed her coffin in two in front of her.

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