81-year-old Zhang Wenying hanged herself on May 13th. The woman left behind a note saying she had ended it all to ensure a decent death and burial..
She is just one of dozens who have been taking their lives to get a ‘decent burial.’
China’s Anhui province is to ban all burials after June 1st and anyone who dies after that date will have to be cremated. Officials have even gone on a coffin smashing rampage to drive the point home.
Authorities say cemeteries are taking up too much space, but for many elderly folks, even the thought of cremation is unbearable and they would prefer an early death. Unfortunately, that means suicide and ensuring the registration of their deaths before June 1st.
If the news is correct, the anguish the senior citizens may be going through can only be imagined. The old, set in their ways and true to the tradition, are understandably distraught. The new law is even more revolting to the people of rural areas where the number of suicides is higher than the urban centers.
This is not a unique ban though, Keith Bradsher of New York Times wrote in 2005, “The suppression of coffin sales and the requirement that the dead must be cremated instead of buried began soon after the Communist takeover in 1949; it was aimed in part at preventing ostentatious funerals and preserving land for other uses.”
"The ordinary people who live in villages all want to be buried, not cremated," Bradsher quotes a 67-year-old as saying.
The sentiment is echoed in another elderly man’s words after the recent ban, 'It's hard for the old people to accept the policy, so the government should give them more time to think about it, but not carry out the policy on such short notice,' he says.