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Old 22nd November 2008, 06:53 AM
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Latest way of making money.

Deadly harvest

Guangdong's burial ban has fuelled demand for human bodies, and criminal gangs are resorting to murder to meet it

Choi Chi-yuk and Fiona Tam
Nov 22, 2008

The signs are everywhere around Jieyang , in east Guangdong. On walls, on telephone poles and on bulletin boards, families searching for their missing relatives have posted notices appealing for information on people who have disappeared seemingly without trace.

In the past year, the problem has worsened, especially in Puning and Jiexi counties, which are administered by Jieyang. There, dozens of villages have reported missing people, including itinerants who used to beg in their communities. The elderly and mentally disabled are also among the most vulnerable potential victims.

Liu Jingsong , a motorcycle cabbie in Baita township in Jieyang, said the disappearances were unprecedented. "I'm 54 years old now. I've never heard of such a crime before," he says.

"Peng Kunsong, , my 67-year-old brother-in-law, went missing in February while my wife's cousin, Liu Jianfen , disappeared three years ago. We've not had a single word from either of them since they've gone."

Mr Liu suspects his relatives were murdered by corpse thieves, a class of criminals that has emerged in recent years in response to the suppression of an age-old tradition.

When the communists came to power in 1949, they discouraged burials in the hope of conserving farmland and eradicating superstition. Burials have been banned outright in Guangdong since 2000 but many people, particularly in rural communities, still regard burial, a widespread tradition in China for several thousand years, as the most respectful way of handling the dead. Villagers believe the interred deceased will repay the living with blessings and protection.

The result of this ban has been the emergence of a black market in corpses for those willing to pay to substitute their relatives' bodies at the crematorium with another.

Mainland media reports say that corpse-stealing from graves started in early 2000 and demand has outpaced supply to the extent that criminals have turned to murder to fill their orders. Substitute cremation corpses now sell for up to 10,000 yuan (HK$11,356) apiece.

Mr Liu has no faith in the township government finding out what happened to his relatives. He just shakes his head and says: "The government? Please don't talk about them, or I will be very angry. They don't bother to lift a finger to deal with these cases."

Authorities in Puning have largely remained silent while grisly rumours circulate. Residents talk uneasily among themselves about the missing, and almost everybody fears an encounter with the killers.

But Puning has had one victory over the corpse sellers. On August 1, police officers intercepted a funeral vehicle during a routine stop and found the remains of two bodies bearing strangulation marks. They made several arrests but the main suspect, Liu Haiqun, , a driver for the city's funeral home, had fled to Sichuan .

Three days before the arrests, 57-year-old Xie Chuhua, from Renmei village in Puning, disappeared. His brother says that Xie is one of at least seven people to go missing from the small village in the past year.

"Police contacted me to identify remains after they located what they believed was the gang's headquarters and seized some corpses. I went several times but still failed to find my brother," says the brother, who did not give his name.

Shi Meixiang , 35, a resident of neighbouring Jiedong county, says she was scared every time a van passed by because she had heard that the victims were dragged into vehicles in remote areas and either strangled or poisoned. Her mentally disabled neighbour, 43-year-old Lin Huipeng, was one of two men who went missing in August last year.

Puning authorities said nothing about the arrests until after news emerged hundreds of kilometres away in Sichuan's Gulin county that Liu Haiqun - "the main suspect in a Guangdong-based murder and corpse-selling gang", according to Chengdu-based Sichuan Fazhi Bao - had been arrested by the county public security bureau. The paper reported that Liu was handed over to Jieyang police at their request.

The story was picked up by a Hong Kong newspaper and became a widespread topic of discussion on internet portals. Only after that, on September 4, did Puning police announce that they had arrested seven people on August 1 on suspicion of murder. They neglected to mention that the detainees all belonged to a gang accused of murdering hundreds of disabled and elderly people and selling their remains for cremation to families wanting to bury their dead.

Roughly 3-1/2 months after their arrest, the seven suspects went on trial at the Jieyang Intermediate People's Court, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News reported.

In the court on Tuesday, Liu Haiqun and co-defendant Guan Dadu were accused of masterminding the abduction and strangulation of three innocent people in July, the report added. The court was told that Liu had stored the dead bodies at a pig farm he owned before handing them over to Guan, who was responsible for selling them. A verdict in the case is still pending.

A middle-aged woman from Liu's village welcomed the trial, saying she feels a little more comfortable - about her village at least - after seeing that something is being done. "As an ordinary person, all I want is to live in a peaceful environment, with all of my family safe," she says.

"So many of my fellow villagers went missing in this area in recent years, but it seems much better now. There have been no more complaints about missing people since Liu was arrested." The Puning case is the third one involving a corpse-selling gang in Jieyang in the past four years, with the number of victims from this case alone estimated to surpass 400.

Part of the wider problem is the cremation targets some regional authorities set based on estimates of a 0.5 per cent annual death rate.

Jieyang has had a perfect cremation rate for the past six years, a distinction that has earned it praise and suspicion, especially as its rate jumped spectacularly from 2.5 per cent in 1999 to 100 per cent three years later.

The Guangdong civil affairs bureau, which oversees funeral and interment matters, issued three official notices in 2006 requiring lower-level authorities to provide authentic cremation rates.

"Some local authorities accept bribes and allow those willing to pay to bury their deceased. They later used corpses stolen from tombs or bought from corpse-selling gangs as substitutes to achieve a perfect cremation rate," one notice says.

Guangdong authorities have deployed nearly 24,000 people to monitor cremation reform targets in every village in the past two years. Some of these are suspected of "contributing" to perfect rates. As a result, police investigations are expected to find that more Jieyang officials were either involved themselves or neglected their duties in the Puning case.

Wuhan-based newspaper columnist Liu Hongbo says the strict cremation system violates traditional cultural values and has encouraged corpse sellers and buyers in Jieyang.

Liu points to the case of another Jieyang man who killed 10 people for their corpses in 2004, saying the situation will not change until authorities replace the policy with a more sensible one.

"Buyers knew those corpses were murdered but both parties simply treated life as a commodity to be used in their interests," Liu said.

"For them, the value of life is far less than a corpse ... It exposes a gruesome side of our society and deserves careful examination by authorities and the people."

Cai Xia, from the Central Party School, was quoted by Outlook Weekly as saying that for too long authorities have simplified "development" down to numbers, and flawless figures usually mean a flawless political career.

Professor Cai says the country is paying a high price for cadres who ignore common sense and regulations in the interests of their careers.
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Old 22nd November 2008, 08:28 AM
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Re: Latest way of making money.

It's a dying business.
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Old 22nd November 2008, 12:31 PM
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Re: Latest way of making money.

Interesting problem but overall a propaganda BS in my opinion, considering obvious bias of a western journalist who is trying to blame the "communist party" which came to power in 1949 for the problem which started in 2000. I wonder, what started immediately before 2000?
We are going to witness the start of big propaganda wars, this is for sure...
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Old 22nd November 2008, 06:37 PM
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Re: Latest way of making money.

The report is from the HK's main newspapers, South China Morning Post. This news is in fact not surprising, criminal gangs murdering people also happens in many other countries. Kidnapping of homeless people to harvest organs also happens in the West.

In comparison, the slavery cartel involving local government officials in Henan province, as reported by the Chinese press is astonishing. Even many Chinese living in cities like shanghai are surprised that such a thing can happen in china today.
(Please note, xinhua news, people daily is a CCP newspaper)

China police rescue 248 from slavery in brick kilns

Chinese police have rescued 248 people who had been forced to work as 'slaves' in brick kilns, while widespread crackdown is underway.

Police in central Henan Province have rescued 217 people, including 29 children, and detained 120 suspects after a 4-day crackdown campaign involving more than 35,000 police to check 7,500 kilns in the province.

In the area around Xinxiang, north of Zhengzhou, police raided 20 brick kilns on Saturday and rescued 23 people including 16 children.

Laborers had been enticed or kidnapped and transported to the kilns by human traffickers. Upon arrival they were beaten, starved and forced to work long hours without pay.

In the past two weeks, Chinese media have exposed the plight of children held captive in brick kilns in neighboring Shanxi Province and photos of distraught parents have appeared in the press.

It is reported that 400 Henan fathers have went to the remote mountains in Shanxi to track down missing sons who they believe were sold to kilns.

Qin Yuhai, vice governor and police chief of Henan, said "we must do everything we can to fight human trafficking and rescue those being held captive."

In north China's Shanxi Province, police have rescued 31 people who were forced to work under extremely cruel conditions in brick kilns and detained five suspects.

Wang Bingbing, owner of an illegal brick kiln, and four accomplices, were detained after police found they had forced 32 people who had been abducted or lured from railways stations of Henan and Shanxi.

Nine of the 32 were mentally disabled. One worker, born as mentally handicapped, was beaten to death last November, local police said.

Guarded by taskmaster and dogs, they were forced to work 15 to 16 hours per day, and finish their meals of steamed bread and water within 15 minutes. The workers sleep on the ground in a darkroom without heating system in freezing winter.

Police are still hunting for another suspect from Henan.

The kiln was based in Caosheng Village of Hongtong County. Wang was the son of a village head, according to Wang Xingwang, deputy chairman with the provincial workers' union.

The kiln's bank accounts have been frozen.

Yang Aizhi, a 46-year-old mother, was one of the people who alerted the public to the scandal.

Her 16-year-old son went missing on March 8 and she has been searching for him ever since. On her travels she heard that the child might have been kidnapped and forced to work at kilns in Shanxi.

Yang went to more than 100 kilns in Shanxi and discovered that "most kilns were forcing children to do hard labor," she was quoted as saying in the Southern Weekly. Some children were still wearing their school uniforms.

When the children were too tired to push carts, they were whipped by taskmasters, said Yang.

Yang tried to rescue some of the children but was threatened by kiln owners. She has yet to find her son.

Yang and other parents who suspect their children have been kidnapped and forced to work in illegal kilns told their story to a TV station in Zhengzhou in early May.

Zhang Wenlong was one of the 31 people rescued from the kiln in Caosheng village. Zhang, 17, called the kiln he had worked at as "prison".

Zhang says he was abducted in March from the Zhengzhou Railway Station and worked at a kiln for three months until he burned his hand on bricks that had not yet cooled.

Zhang was watched by thugs and six ferocious dogs, making it impossible to escape.

His taskmaster refused him hospital treatment but provided medicines that had expired.

The county government has allocated 200,000 yuan (about 26,300 U.S. dollars) to provide a salary to the victims.

Nine of the rescued have returned home and government officials are accompanying 15 others to their homes. Seven of the people who were rescued have disappeared as police believe they may have been so traumatized they simply fled.

The crackdown campaign was launched in 11 cities of Shanxi. There have been raids on coal mines, brick kilns, private contractors and small-sized enterprises after media reports revealed that hundreds of children in Henan Province had been kidnapped and forced to work in kilns in Shanxi.

The crackdown is still underway in case more people are suffering in kilns and other illegal workplaces.

Source: Xinhua
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Old 4th December 2008, 07:07 AM
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Re: Latest way of making money.

That's crazy! I would've never thought it would get to the point of people killing people to REPLACE a person who is already dead. It's almost ironic.

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