There are only two things you can be certain about in life–one is birth and the other is death.
But in China, these events are governed by the one-child policy, and reforms affecting traditional beliefs about burials, that mean people have to be cremated.
From June 1, burials in Anqing will become illegal, allegedly to save land. Authorities have promised to compensate each person up to 1,500 yuan (about $240) if they surrender their hand-made coffins before the deadline. After that, any wooden coffins will be destroyed, even though people may have been preparing them for years before they die.
According to ancient traditions, being buried at a proper site allows future generations to venerate their ancestors. To ensure their burials, some elderly people in Anqing killed themselves before the deadline.
Zhang Wenying, 81, hanged herself from a tree in front of her family home on May 13. Her 97-year-old neighbor, Wu Xiuli, died the previous day, after starving himself since April, and four other locals have also passed away before their time, two by drinking poison, and another by throwing herself down a well. The fourth killed herself after authorities sawed her coffin in half in front of her.
Netizens have responded with anger over these untimely deaths, with authorities censoring many of the comments. One Internet user said, “Coffins are instruments of crime, are they? Why confiscate them? This is serious damage to public or private property, and should be sanctioned by law, otherwise the law is worth less than toilet paper!”
Another wrote: “From family planning to forced cremation, from birth to death, people don’t ever have the right of speech!”
A third joked about Mao Zedong, saying: “A man has been dead for decades, but also lay in a crystal coffin placed there, may I ask why he hasn’t been cremated?”