Henan Officials Commit a Grave Error

China saw 41 self-immolation protests against forced evictions between 2009 and 2011. One might expect that death would at least be the end of the problem; but not in Zhukou city in Henan province, where local authorities are razing millions of graves to make way for farmland. Scholars, local residents and sympathisers nationwide all oppose the campaign, but despite reports last month that it had been abandoned, an official insisted that “we will not give up the plan just because there were some online debates.” At Bloomberg’s World View, Adam Minter examined the public outcry against this “brutal, barbaric” practice.

Even many critics of the grave-razing program […] acknowledge that China needs to reform funeral practices (and, inevitably, encourage cremation) to meet growing land demands. What primarily offends these commentators is the brusque method used to clear away the graves in Zhoukou. On Nov. 19, Zhong Yongheng, a native of Zhoukou and a journalist with People’s Daily, the official, self-declared Communist Party mouthpiece, used his account on the Twitter-like Ten Cent microblog, to post his family’s experience with Zhoukou’s program. His family, he notes, no longer lives in Zhoukou but has relocated north to Beijing:

“You should give us notice at least before you damage our ancestral tombs, don’t you think? My family members are all in Beijing and didn’t get any advance notice from anyone. Then we suddenly received news that our ancestral tombs were leveled by an excavator. My parents turned toward the south, wailing.”

[…] So far, there’s no evidence that Zhoukou’s officials — or its government — will benefit financially from the grave- clearing program. On the contrary, the Beijing News has reported that some low-level government officials, under pressure to provide good examples for the farmers, have personally dug up their ancestors’ bones.
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