Chinese crematorium officials arrested over buying corpses to meet government quotas

Central government has campaigned for more families to cremate dead in controversial attempt to preserve land for farming

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Two Chinese officials who bought corpses off grave robbers in an attempt to meet controversial central government cremation quotas have been arrested.

The two Chinese officials from Guangdong province bought the bodies off a grave robber, identified only by his surname Zhong, who is believed to have stolen more than 20 bodies from local villages before transporting them on the back of a motorbike to sell.

In recent years the Chinese government has been encouraging families to cremate their dead in order to save limited land resources for farming and development. Traditionally, the Chinese worship at the tombs of dead relatives and it is thought a good tomb location can bring health and prosperity to surviving family members.

Local media Xinhua reported that the decision by central government to impose a quota system on cremations has led to many families carrying out their burials in secret in opposition to the reforms.

The two officials, named only as He and Dong, were in charge of the local crematorium and bought at least ten bodies off the grave robber Zhong in order to fulfil their quota as set by central government.

Dong was found to have bought 10 corpses for 3000 yuan each, but it remains unclear how many corpses his colleague He purchased at 1500 yuan each. Local media channel Xinhua reported the deals were allegedly “approved” by the government.

Zhong, who was apprehended in July, described to police how he would exhume remote graves in Zhuang Autonomous Region before transporting them to Gaozhou City and Huazhou City – where the two officials worked – in neighbouring Guangdong province.

In June a resident from Zhuang Autonomous Region reported his grandfather’s body missing, despite family members guarding the grave in turns. Since the arrests more villagers have come forward to complain about relatives’ bodies disappearing.

The news comes shortly after it was revealed authorities had arrested 11 men over the practise of  ‘Ghost marriages’, which involved digging up the bodies of recently deceased young women and selling their corpses on to families.