China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced yesterday that it is banning members from holding lavish funerals for their relatives as part of a drive against waste, corruption and pomp.
The ban was contained in a party circular carried by state media that also said party members were forbidden from using funerals to collect condolence money from attendees. Such gifts are intended to defray costs, but often serve instead as bribes in exchange for favors.
With concerns mounting that official funerals had become a “platform to show off wealth and connections,” party members and officials have been instructed to “set an example with simple, civilised” ceremonies, the state Xinhua news agency reported.
Rising displays of opulence and a trend for the number of mourners in attendance to be seen as a sign of the deceased’s “achievements” were sparking competition among the living, prompting Communist Party leaders to call for more modest ceremonies, it said.
“No funeral parlors should be set up in resident communities, streets and public venues,” the memo said. “Superstitious practices should be avoided.”
The document also suggested that officials donate their organs after death, choose “cremation or other environmentally friendly form of disposal,” and ensure gravestones do not exceed “set standards.”
Land in cemeteries in Beijing and Shanghai can hit tens of thousands of US dollars per half-meter plot, exceeding even the cost of housing in the cities, Xinhua said.
Honoring the dead can be an extravagant affair in many parts of China, with ceremonies sometimes featuring professional mourners, uniformed marching bands and motorcades of limousines.
The rituals are also increasingly a way to demonstrate rising social status, but extravagant ceremonies have been criticized for highlighting China’s burgeoning income gap.
“Government officials take advantage of expensive funerals to take bribes, while those who offered money in bribes naturally seek returns,” said Hu Xingdou (胡星斗), a political economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
“The public certainly feels angry about officials’ luxurious funerals. They may feel envious, and it also mirrors the gap between the rich and the poor,” he added.
The directive was the latest in an austerity campaign spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to cut through luxury, formality and waste among party and government officials that have alienated and angered many ordinary citizens.
The party has already issued a five-year moratorium on the construction of new government buildings and banned the use of public funds for lavish banquets and expensive gifts such as moon cakes.
Fancy funerals came into the spotlight in October when state broadcaster China Central Television reported that a village cadre held a funeral for his wife that included a 3km long procession with a marching band and motorcade that stopped traffic for hours.