Elderly Chinese people are committing suicide in the country’s Anhui province in order to avoid a ban on burials scheduled to start June 1.
Dozens of the elderly are said to have committed suicide so that their deaths can be registered by May 31 and they can till be buried in a local cemetery. After that date, burials in the province will be banned and the remains of all deceased must be cremated.
Officials say that cemeteries in the province are taking up too much land. The new rules were published on April 1.
“Before June 1 people can still consign their bodies for burial, but after that the only option offered will be cremation,” local officials told the Daily Mail.
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In Chinese metropolitan areas the new rules have meant little change, but in rural areas many prefer burial to cremation and many seem to prefer ending their life early to avoid the prospect of having their body burned.
One woman, Zhang Wenying, 81, hanged herself earlier this month and left a note saying she preferred to die early to ensure a decent death and that she expected to be buried.
This recent problem is not the first time rural citizens have clashed with officials over the subject of burials.
China has long been trying to convince its population to view cremation as a suitable replacement to burials. Last December officials in the Anhui province exhumed the body of recently deceased Cheng Chaomu and burned the body, claiming the remains were not permitted to have been buried.
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"They just dug it up, poured on two barrels of diesel and set it on fire," Chaomu's oldest son told China Daily.
At that time local officials could divide geographic areas into “burial zones” and “cremation zones.” If a person died in the typically less populated burial zone, families could still have loved ones buried. The new rules enforce a strict policy of cremation only.
In order to drive home that point many local officials have been raiding funeral homes and destroying coffins so they cannot be used after the June 1 deadline. Many believe that such actions are only encouraging the elderly to commit suicide.
“It's hard for the old people to accept the policy, so the government should give them more time to think about it, but not carry out the policy on such short notice,” said one elder of the province.