The nation’s funeral service operators are demanding that the government treat all businesses fairly and not give preferential treatment to Chinese companies, which will be able to set up businesses in Taiwan under the cross-strait service trade pact signed last month.
“When applying for permits, Taiwanese operators [of funeral services] have always faced obstacles and were rebuffed by the government. Now that the Chinese companies will be coming in to do business here, we will wait and see how will they go about dealing with government regulations,” said Chung Wei-cheng (鐘偉正), public relations manager for Beihai Fuzhuo Cemetery Park of Global Funeral Services Co in New Taipei City (新北市).
Chung said the facilities most lacking in Taiwan’s funeral service industry are funeral parlors and crematoriums.
“For a long time, it has been very difficult for us to apply for permits to operate these businesses. Now that the government is opening up to Chinese investment in this industry, of course we are concerned and will monitor the development carefully,” he said.
Chung said that most local funeral service operators want to provide complete services, from funerals to cremation.
“However, the Funeral Industry Management Act (殯葬管理條例) has excessively strict regulations. Due to protests by local people and the ‘not-in-my-backyard’ effect, very few private-sector operators are successful in obtaining operating permits,” he said.
One Taiwanese operator said that all regulations must fall under the framework of fair competition, adding that “the Chinese corporations can invest with big money, but we can also match them financially. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration must not treat them better than us.”
A Ministry of the Interior official who wished to remain unnamed said that the government does not restrict operators from building funeral parlors and crematoriums.
“It must follow the regulations under the Funeral Industry Management Act. The real difficulty is not in acquisition of land, but with the ‘not-in-my-backyard’ effect,” the official said.
“There are protests when a local government tries to set up special zones for funeral services, and the same for private operators. It does not matter whether it is Chinese or Taiwanese investment, all application for permits must follow the official regulations,” the official added.