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China regulates funeral ahead of Qingming

(Xinhua)

08:46, March 27, 2012

BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhua) -- New funeral charge regulations have been issued that could calm the annual negative headlines that dog the industry ahead of early April's tomb sweeping festival.

A document was issued last week by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Civil Affairs ruling funeral services should be split into two categories -- basic services and optional ones.

Fees for basic services, including transportation and storage of the body, cremation and care of ashes, will be decided by local governments. They will set the standard based on the services' cost and the subsidies funeral businesses receive from the government.

Fees for optional services -- for example, body preservation and funeral arrangements -- can be decided by funeral homes under a proposed government standard.

The administration will also decide the price of tombs in non-profit-making public cemeteries and intervene when commercial cemeteries charge too much, the document said.

The regulation urged local governments to work out preferential funeral pricing for needy families.

Governments across the country will launch a campaign to manage funeral homes' illegal charging policies, said the NDRC statement.

The public can report malpractice in this industry to a hotline, 12358, it added.

Recently, the Shanghai city government launched an eco-friendly public cemetery which uses less land and features lower charges. The cemetery contains about 100,000 small tombs and each costs around 1,000 yuan (159 US dollars).

The government of east China's Shandong Province also pledged to remove basic funeral service charges for all low-income families this year.

The Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, whick falls on April 4 this year, is a centuries-old tradition in China meant to mourn the death of ancestors and loved ones.

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