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December 24, 2009

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Government to aid with funeral expenses

THE Chinese government is planning to reimburse every citizen of part of funeral expenses after media exposure that Chinese cannot "afford" to die as funeral costs soar.

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on its website that the government will first start to cover the basic funeral costs for poorer people.

The ministry did not give a time frame on its Website, yet it recommended that governments in wealthy provinces start covering funeral expenses for the poor. Left uncovered are the bigger part of funeral expenses, for example, the cost of a tomb.

It was reported that a tomb in Shanghai could cost as much as 50,000 yuan (US$7,316) per square meter, way higher than the price of an apartment. The funeral price has surged almost four times in Shanghai since the 1990s.

The soaring funeral costs have not only led to people complaining but also a booming business that has become a parasite on hospitals.

Funeral service providers are now hooking up with mortuaries to sell their high-price products.

"The funeral providers are so swift that a salesman even called me before I was informed of my husband's passing away," said a woman surnamed Xu as quoted by Southern Metropolis Daily.

The newspaper also revealed that some staff members in hospital mortuaries stop families from taking their dead relative away if they don't buy urns from them.

The items are usually marked as high as 20 times the original price, and mourning relatives are loath to bargain. If they do bargain, the salespersons would say it is not respectful and also ominous.

Beijing government has started to offer funeral subsidies of 5,000 yuan per capital since April.


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