11/24/2012, 00.00
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Henan, economic growth does not even spare the dead or cemeteries

Despite controversies and attacks by intellectuals and citizens, the city of Zhoukou proceeds with the demolition of the local cemeteries to give the land to industry and agriculture. In a few months already 2 million graves have been uprooted.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China's economic growth does not take account of human respect. Not even for the dead, since the city of Zhoukou - 12 million inhabitants, in the central-eastern province of Henan - continues with the demolition project of communal graves to get more land to allocate to industry and agriculture. Local officials are the target of the citizens' anger; the latter have already had 2 million graves uprooted.

Zhoukou is one of the oldest cities in mainland China. The new policy of the provincial government on the intended use of the land was approved in March. A spokesman for the Office of Civil Affairs, in charge of the demolition, said the government "has no intention of stopping the campaign. We are carrying it out and will continue to do so."

The Chinese State Council has issued an order limiting the municipal powers on the matter, but this is not stopping the city: "It just means that our office does not have the right to proceed with the forced demolitions. In our place, the courts and the police will do it, who are taking responsibility."

To stop the destruction, a group of intellectuals and thousands of ordinary citizens have sent a petition to the central government. The government, however, involved in preparations for the 18th National Party Congress, ignored it. Jia Guoyong, who writes screenplays, says: "When I returned to Zhoukou I felt as if I had lost my soul. There is an end-of-the-world atmosphere: the people weep as tractors demolish graves. There are bones everywhere."

The government has promised a sum of money in compensation for the destroyed graves - which, however, some families say they never received - and a sort of "common cemetery" for the remains of the dead. But, as the local citizens have denounced, "it's just an open pit."

The demolition imposed by the government has a devastating effect on the entire Chinese system. The traditional culture founds its ancestral religion and social structure on respect for one's ancestors. The devotion to and care of family graves is one of the national cornerstones, and the traditional cemeteries are always well attended.




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