The news that Guangzhou is to start building a costly cemetery exclusively for revolutionary heroes and government officials this October has stirred up something of an online controversy.
With the cost of cemetery space far higher than housing, it has highlighted the increasing inequality in Chinese society – in death, as well as in life.
The Fushan Revolutionary Cemetery, which will cover an area of 1,300 mu (870,000 sq m) and cost RMB 620 million ($100 m), is designated only for the privileged class, including “revolutionary martyrs”, “government cadres” and “military servicemen”, according to China Insight, a Beijing-based magazine, run by the Communist Party journal Qiushi (“Seeking Truth”).
The news, which came out last week, has created a buzz on the Chinese blogosphere and triggered criticism by many Weibo users (China’s answer to Twitter).
“No wonder people are trying so hard to get a job in the government; otherwise, they die without a burial place,” wrote one Weibo user.
“Chinese taxpayers take care of not only the living but also the dead [officials],” wrote another.
The discontent is shared by Fan Haiqun, a researcher at Guangdong Social Sciences Academy who specialises in funeral policy.
He was quoted by Insight China as saying: “Are there any new revolutionary heroes? Since the new China has been established for more than 60 years, most of the people who sacrificed their lives in wars have already passed away. Today’s so-called revolutionary figures are just government officials.”
Guangzhou’s Civic Affairs Bureau later denied such accusations, saying the Fushan cemetery isn’t built for “only burying officials” and would also be open to the public, according to the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News. A woman who answered the bureau’s phone declined to comment on the issue.
However, such denials are not likely to convince the public or parts of the media. The Xi’an Evening News questioned: “Although the city’s Civil Affair Bureau denied the report [by China Insight], it didn’t offer any strong evidences to refute it, such as the proportion of the public graveyard [at the Fushan cemetery]. Therefore, it cannot shake off people’s doubts.”
On Sina Weibo, microbloggers fired back with sarcastic comments. “I would like to pay more tax if it’s built to bury them [officials] alive,” wrote one.
Apart from deep social inequality between the privileged and unprivileged in China, the issue highlights a new challenge for the country’s given the rate of urbanisation – scarcity of land for public cemeteries.
In Guangzhou, there are around 50,000 deaths per year, of which 30,000 are buried, according to China Daily. However, the city’s 10 commercial cemeteries are failing to cope with demand as there is no available land for new plots, reported Southern Metropolis Daily.
This has led the price of cemetery plots in Guangzhou to rocket – RMB 80,000 ($13,000) per sq m, much higher than that of local commercial housing (which is RMB 23,518 per sq m in April), according to Southern Metropolis Daily.
The sky-high price of plots is another hardship for Chinese people. As one blogger put it: “Life is never easy in China, now, [nor is] death.”Source: ft.com (beyondbrics) – China: unequal in death, as well as life Related articles:
- China: Henan city refuses to stop clearance of graves to make farmland (chinadailymail.com)
- China: Thieves steal and sell female corpses for “corpse marriages” (chinadailymail.com)
- Land grabs are main cause of China’s 100,000 protests each year (chinadailymail.com)
- China has feudal answers for modern problems (chinadaily.com)
- The business of death in China (ft.com – beyondbrics)
- Land demand squeezes out dead in Shanghai, (ft.com)
Villagers relocated for expensive cemetery (chinaorg.cn)
A Quick Introduction to China’s Microblogs: Weibo (business2community.com)
- China academic’s weibo blocked over ‘rumours’: Xinhua (straitstimes.com)
- Anatomy of China’s bird flu outbreak so far (qz.com)