And Finally

Funereal mood

Shenzhen’s residents furious about burial site


Urn enough?

Over the past decade, people in Hong Kong have complained that the city has become so expensive they can’t even afford to die. A space in a private graveyard can cost as much as HK$3 million ($390,000) – and that’s assuming one is available. The cheapest option – dumping the ashes into the sea – is frowned upon, because in Chinese culture the dead are supposed to be honoured and visited regularly.

Even if one was to opt for cremation, the waiting time for a slot in a public columbarium can be as long as five years. The shortage of burial spaces is compounded by feng shui concerns. Living close to a cemetery or anything associated with dead people is considered inauspicious. Therefore any proposals to build new crematory facilities usually run into resistance from the local community.

So to solve this supply shortfall, Hong Kong is now planning to build what the local media calls a “super funeral hub” in rural Sandy Ridge district, which is right next to the border with Shenzhen. It will boast 30 funeral parlours, 10 cremation facilities and 200,000 spaces for the placement of urns by 2022, says Southern Metropolitan Daily, which obtained details of the plan from the Hong Kong government.

The problem? Shenzhen residents are as obsessed with feng shui as Hongkongers. Many were outraged not to be consulted and to only find out from the media that a mega burial site would be located on their doorstep.

Some expressed concern that it would prove deadly for home prices in the adjacent area. Already, many Shenzhen residents say they will move out if the project goes ahead. One local property agent told the Oriental Daily that housing prices in the affected area of Shenzhen could drop 20% as a result.

“It is psychologically disturbing if you see a cemetery whenever you open your windows,” one resident who lives near Sandy Ridge, told Jing Daily. “The undeveloped Sandy Ridge now offers quite a nice view. If a cemetery is built here our quality of life and air quality will drop.”

“How would you feel when the first thing you see outside of the window is a large funeral plot?” another asks rhetorically.

Liang Rui, a deputy in Shenzhen’s legislature, told Jing Daily that he has submitted proposals to Shenzhen’s government asking Hong Kong to revise its plan.

It remains to be seen whether Hong Kong will take Shenzhen’s concerns into consideration. Hong Kong could technically refuse to discuss the plan with Shenzhen. That was what happened two years ago, when its government simply disregarded Shenzhen’s objections and expanded a landfill (for garbage) near the border. Shenzhen had complained that the plan would bring pollution to one of its scenic spots.

Understandably the project is turning into yet another cross-border spat.

One defiant Hong Kong netizen wrote: “I thought China doesn’t believe in democracy? So why should we consult with you before building the cemetery site? And besides, this is Hong Kong’s territory!”

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