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China halts funeral profiteers ahead of Tomb-sweeping festival

2014-03-28 07:58 Xinhua Web Editor: qindexing

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has vowed to crack down on irregularities such as overpricing in the funeral industry, as the traditional Tomb-sweeping Holiday nears.

Falling on April 5, the annual festival is a prime occasion for funeral service providers to cash in as Chinese visit the tombs of their deceased relatives while offering paper money and burning incenses to honor them.

"Basic and optional services should be clearly separated and priced to avoid forced or misguided consumption, and bans on visitors bringing legal funeral products brought elsewhere is strictly prohibited," said Minister Li Liguo at a meeting on funeral service management on Thursday.

Late in 2013, an anti-extravagance campaign banned special funeral arrangements and opulent mourning services for members and officials of the Communist Party of China, urging them to set an example through civilized and frugal funerals.

But Li noted a comeback in superstitious and improper funeral-related activities as well as officials holding lavish funeral services to show off their wealth and connections, with many of these occasions also raking in condolence money from visitors.

Meanwhile, inadequate supervision from local governments has paved the way for inflated prices in the profit-obsessed funeral market.

Li urged civil affairs departments to intensify policing of state-run funeral service providers and solve obvious problems that harm people's interests.

The senior official said optional funeral services should be further regulated in accordance with government policies, with specific pricing standards to ensure fair trade.

In addition, Li stressed that sales of luxurious cemetery plots and those covering extra acreage are forbidden, while death, cremation and other certificates are compulsory in the purchase of a plot so as to stem speculation.

The Chinese public has perennial complaints about overpriced cemetery plots as the cost of a half meter plot in Beijing or Shanghai cemeteries can easily reach tens of thousands of U.S. dollars -- several times the housing price.

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