Related News

Home » Nation

Costly trips to the afterlife questioned

A CLOSE look at the country's funeral industry on the eve of Qingming, a traditional festival for mourning, reveals expensive ceremonies, graves and other costly services that need stricter regulation, a social affairs official said yesterday.

The funeral service industry has often been selected as one of the 10 most lucrative industries in polls of Chinese Netizens, according to the Shanghai-based Oriental Radio Station.

The mortuary at the First Hospital affiliated with Peking University, for instance, charges 300 yuan (US$43) for cleaning a body, 100 yuan for cutting toenails, 50 yuan for cutting fingernails, 150 yuan for dressing the body and 600 yuan for holding a visitation. Grave clothes that cost less than 50 yuan could sell for more than 1,000 yuan there.

But according to price regulations issued by the Beijing civil administrative department, the charge for holding a visitation should range as low as 50 yuan, and dressing bodies should cost 100 yuan.

"Most mortuaries are contracted to private owners, and they usually contact unregistered hearse drivers to transport the bodies. These businesses take a great share of customers and charge unreasonably high prices," said a worker with Beijing's Tongzhou Funeral House.

Objects used for funerals are also being sold at prices much higher than their cost.

According to Wu Gang, deputy director of Chongqing Development and Reform Commission, a 100-yuan remains box could be sold for more than 4,000 yuan, and a grave site might cost hundreds of thousands of yuan.

Luo Zhongli, a member of the National People's Congress, said, "Graves can be more expensive than houses, and the profit made from developing cemeteries far exceeds that of the real estate industry."

The current practice is for private investors to buy land from local village committees or civil administrative departments for less than 200,000 yuan per mu (0.06 hectare), on which 350 grave sites could be built.

If each site sells for 10,000 yuan, the total sales on one mu would reach 3.5 million yuan. Since cemeteries are exempt from business taxes, the developers could secure a huge profit, Luo said.

With great financial prospects, the funeral industry has increased its popularity among job seekers.

On March 21, the Shanghai Funeral Service Center held its first job fair for university students. More than 5,000 graduates competed for about 400 jobs.

Despite the unfolding financial crisis, the Shanghai Funeral Service Center offered salaries ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 yuan per month to its new employees.

In response to criticism of profiteering in the funeral industry, Li Quan of the Social Affairs Department of the Civil Administrative Ministry said that the prices of funeral objects and services should be set according to regulations and other standards, especially during the Qingming Festival, which falls today.

"Charges for all service items and commodities should be clearly marked. No price hikes are allowed," the official said.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend