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City asks public to choose eco-burials

Xinhua, March 30, 2016 Adjust font size:

Beijing will promote smaller tombs and ecologically friendly burials as it tries to persuade people to stop renting big tombs for the deceased, officials said.

Cemetery operators in Beijing will suggest that people not rent traditional ground tombs and instead opt for burials that are better for the environment, under a five-year plan for the funeral service sector.

In Chinese tradition, souls only rest in peace if their bodies are covered by soil. Older tombs involve ground burials and occupy several square meters.

Large tombstones were once considered a symbol of social status and were thought to reflect the degree of filial piety of offspring. However, because of land scarcity and pollution, people are being encouraged to use new methods, including tree, flower and sea burials. Smaller tombs and replacing gravestones with trees.

Under the plan, relatives of the deceased will be urged to move ashes to more environmentally friendly resting places, said Li Hui, an official at the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau.

Beijing offers 4,000 yuan ($611) to families that choose sea burials for their deceased relatives.

The new policy has triggered a public backlash, with some objecting to moving the ashes of ancestors.

"Sorry, the tomb of your grandfather is out of service, please pay or move out," mocked one micro-blogger.

Li said families will be informed before tomb leases expire. "They can continue leasing if they insist," Li said.

Last year, 46 percent of burials in Beijing were eco-friendly.

The government wants to raise that to 50 percent by 2020. Another goal is to increase the cremation rate.