Beijing: In a grisly act, two Chinese officials were found to have been buying human corpses from "grave robbers" to meet government cremation quotas, official media here reported on Sunday.
The case came to light in June, when a resident surnamed Gu from Shizhai Village of Beiliu City in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region reported his grandfather's body was stolen from his grave.
Since body theft cases frequently occur in the region, Gu and other family members were guarding his grave in turns.
Still, they failed to prevent the theft of his corpse, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
In early July, police from Beiliu City apprehended a "grave robber" surnamed Zhong based on an investigation.
Zhong said he has stolen more than 20 corpses in local villages at night, put them into bag, and transported them by motorcycle to neighboring Guangdong Province.
He also told the investigators that he sold the corpses to two officials from Gaozhou City and Huazhou City in Guangdong.
With the help of Guangdong police, the two suspects, surnamed He and Dong, were arrested.
Both were local officials in charge of funeral management reform.
They told police that they bought the corpses to finish government cremation quota.
China has a long tradition of ancestor worship, which usually requires families bury their relatives and construct a tomb.
In recent years, China has forwarded a campaign encouraging cremation to save on limited land resources.
Whether people are in favour of preserving farmland or upholding cultural tradition, the burial reform has aroused great controversy in rural regions.
In He and Dong's towns, local government has demanded a certain number of the dead should be cremated each month based on the total local population of the previous year.
Reacting to the news of the quota, people in the area began burying the corpses of their relatives in secrecy.
Pushed to meet their quota, the two officials sought to purchase the corpses and send them to funeral parlor for cremation, the report said.
Dong was found to have bought 10 corpses for 3000 Yuan (USD 500) each, while the number of bodies purchased by He was unavailable.
The cost for corpses paid by He was 1500 yuan each.
The deal was supposedly "approved" by the government. Further investigation is under way.
Many villagers from Guangxi have reported the graveyards of their family members were excavated and corpses stolen in recent years.
It is a commonly held belief in China that a good location for ancestors' tombs can bring good luck and happiness to living relatives. Damaging tombs can spell disaster.
This theory has made it a taboo to dig up the tombs of others' ancestors in traditional Chinese culture.