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Costly cemetery plots sadden Guangzhou

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou  (China Daily)

08:36, April 02, 2013

Family members visit the burial sites of relatives at a cemetery in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Saturday ahead of Tomb Sweeping Day, which falls on Thursday this year.(Yangcheng Evening News/ Ai Xiuyu)

The price of cemetery plots is now about 80,000 yuan ($12,880) a square meter - much higher than the rate for local luxury commercial apartments - in the capital of Guangdong province.

In Guangzhou Zhonghua Permanent Cemetery, an expensive plot, which covers less than 2 sq m, now costs 140,000 to 150,000 yuan - excluding the cost of gravestones, stone lions, landscaping and other charges.

An ordinary plot costs 40,000 to 100,000 yuan at the cemetery in Xintang township, Zengcheng, a suburb of Guangzhou.

Local commercial apartments are now changing hands for about 10,000 yuan a square meter.

A sales representative named Yang at Guangzhou Jinzhong Permanent Cemetery in the city's suburban Huadu district said the plots in his cemetery are now being sold at 60,000 yuan to more than 100,000 yuan each.

"Even the more expensive plots are selling well," Yang told China Daily on Monday.

"More and more people are now buying expensive cemetery plots for their parents, to fulfill their filial duties," he said.

Yang attributed the high prices to the fact that less land is available for plots and that costs are rising for building materials and workers' salaries.

He said the prices will continue to rise in coming months because supply has failed to meet demand.

Prices of cemetery plots in Guangzhou increased by more than 10 percent annually in the past decade, he said.

The city's department of funeral administration said about 50,000 people a year die in the southern metropolis.

"About 30,000 of them need a plot to be buried in. The other 20,000, who come from outside the city, might be taken back to their hometowns," an official from the department said.

The official urged locals to adopt sea burials, or tree burials - where the person's ashes are buried next to a tree - and other green ways in the following months to help ease the demand for cemetery plots in the city.

Early this year, the Guangzhou Bureau of Civil Affairs issued a notice encouraging people to bury deceased family members at sea.

Family members of any person with a Guangzhou hukou, or household registration, who dies this year and is willing to be buried at sea will get 1,000 yuan from the city's civil affairs bureau.

Sea burial is free.

The moves are aimed at deepening the reform of funeral procedures, conserve land resources and change social traditions, said the official, who did not want to be named.

Even those who are not entitled to the subsidy can request a free sea burial for family members, he added.

The city has more than 1,500 tree burials annually and 500 to 600 sea burials.

"I hope the figures for sea burials and tree burials will greatly increase in the following years," the official said.

Guangzhou, which has a population of about 16 million, has 11 commercial cemeteries, encompassing more than 265 hectares.

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