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China strives to curb high funeral charges

(Xinhua)

08:56, March 27, 2012

BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhua) -- China will curb excessively high funeral charges by regulating the industry and reducing or remitting fees for low-income groups, the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) said Monday.

A pricing standard for basic funeral services, such as transportation and storage of the body, cremation and the handling of ashes, will be issued by local governments based on the costs of the services and the subsidies funeral-related businesses receive from the government, the ministry said in a written interview with Xinhua.

In the meantime, fees for optional services -- such as body preservation and funeral arrangements -- can be decided by funeral homes under a proposed government standard.

The government will also cut the public management cost for funeral services providers and promote a "thrifty funeral" concept.

A document was issued last week by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the MCA urging detailed efforts be made to curb the country's rising funeral charges.

Government efforts to curb high funeral charges come ahead of the Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, which falls on April 4 this year. The festival is a centuries-old tradition in China meant to mourn the death of ancestors and loved ones.

Funeral charges often become a hot issue during the festival, as many people complain that the funeral charges are so high that "they cannot afford their deaths."

The ministry ascribed the problem to the low quality of the funeral services and imperfect policies in China, as well as the industry's natural character to be monopolized and its particularity.

The ministry will promote a policy of benefiting the people by reducing or remitting basic funeral charges for low-income groups.

So far, a total of 14 provinces, 92 prefectural-level cities and 471 counties have implemented the policy with different measures. The ministry said the policy will be expanded to try to cover all low-income groups around the country by the end of this year.

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