Shenzhen's fury over HK's funeral hub plan

SHENZHEN- Hong Kong is to build a "funeral hub" on its northern border, but the plan has sparked opposition from residents of Shenzhen city just across the Shenzhen River, reported the Chinese media.

The hub at rural Sandy Ridge district, to be completed by 2022, will boast 30 funeral parlours contained in a huge building, as well as 10 cremation facilities and 200,000 niches for the placement of ash urns, reported the Guangzhou-based South Metropolitan Daily, which has obtained the plan's details from Hong Kong's Food and Health Bureau.

The bureau, which is responsible for building the hub, also revealed that the Hong Kong government had affirmed the plan's feasibility in 2012 and has secured budget for the construction.

But residents in neighbouring Shenzhen, who only learnt about the hub recently from the local media, are outraged that what they call a "disgusting" industry is coming to their doorstep.

Living close to a cemetery or anything associated with dead people is frowned upon in Chinese culture, the Chinese News Service pointed out.

Liang Rui, a deputy in Shenzhen's legislature, has submitted proposals to Shenzhen's government asking that Hong Kong be made to trim or revise its plan, reported the official Jing Daily.

"It is psychologically disturbing if you see a cemetery whenever you open your windows," Jing Daily quoted a man surnamed Wang who lives in Luohu Village, Shenzhen's most bustling district and nearest residential cluster to Sandy Ridge, as saying.

"The undeveloped Sandy Ridge now offers quite a nice view. If a cemetery is built here... our life quality and air quality will drop," added Mr Wang.

An online post pointed out that the monsoon winds in the region will bring the cremation emissions from Sandy Ridge to the south coast of Shenzhen, causing property prices there to drop.

"Residents will flee from there," said the post, which was signed off with the name Wudalang.

Jing Daily found out that the post was co-written by a director and a manager of a property development company which has some uncompleted projects in southern Shenzhen.

Another resident, who worries that the hub will shake Shenzhen's economy, asked Jing Daily: "Who will want to check into a hotel next to a cemetery?"

According to a carpark attendant, the dead of Hong Kong began to "disturb" Shenzhen in 1996, when graves appeared on the hills of Sandy Ridge.

But now the "disturbance" has grown in scale, he quipped.

Having only six crematoriums and seven licensed funeral parlours, Hong Kong is finding it hard to cope with the rise in the number of deaths each year - which has exceeded 40,000 - as its population ages.

But in drawing up the hub plan, Hong Kong has considered only its local environmental impact.

Hong Kong could also refuse to discuss the plan with Shenzhen, as under the "one country, two systems" arrangement it could deal directly with Beijing, which might not share Shenzhen's concerns.

That was what happened in 2013, when Hong Kong simply disregarded Shenzhen's objection to the expansion of its waste landfill in Tuen Men district.

Shenzhen had complained that the plan would bring pollution to one of its scenic spots.

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