China pays citizens to choose sea burials

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   April 4, 2013 at 11:51 AM   |   0 comments

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April 4 (UPI) -- Most Chinese provinces will run out of burial room in the next 10 years, according to a study by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. A few provinces have fewer than five years, reports the Washington Post.

Officials across China are offering financial incentives, but the push toward watery graves hasn't met much success. Shanghai started offering sea burials in 1991, but in 2010 sea burials numbered in the low thousands while grave burials totaled 53,311.

Chinese pray at an ancient Taoist temple during the annual Qing Ming holiday, or Grave Sweeping Festival, in downtown Beijing April 6, 2009. (File/UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver)
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Many local governments are rolling out their strongest pitches this week to coincide with the Qingming Festival, when families take a day off to sweep their ancestors’ graves. Critics worry that tradition and the meaning of ancestor-honoring rites are being trampled by the government initiatives.

Chinese pray at an ancient Taoist temple during the annual Qing Ming holiday, or Grave Sweeping Festival, in downtown Beijing. (File/UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver)
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In Guangzhou, officials recently announced a $160 bonus for families that scatter ashes at sea. In Shanghai, officials increased their offer from $65 to $320. The coastal cities of Shaoxing and Wenzhou are offering $800 and $1,290, respectively. The government often provides transportation, including all-expense-paid boat trips.

To cut down on space, cremation already is required by law in cities, but prices for even the tiny plots for burying urns have skyrocketed. Bureaucratic fears of chaos and anger once the country runs out of graves led to a more concentrated push for sea burials.

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