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Published: Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 7:40:02 PM
Updated: Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 7:41:12 PM

China tolls death knell for lavish, 'feudal' funerals for officials

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Communist Party members and government officials have to have simple funerals without any "feudal" or "superstitious" elements, the government said on Thursday, as the party tries to curb extravagance.

President Xi Jinping ordered the crackdown late last year when he became party boss, seeking to assuage public anger at waste and extravagance, particularly officials seen abusing their position to illegally amass wealth.

Having already taken aim at everything from banquets to bribes, the party has now turned its attention to funerals.

The government said that there had been a return to "bad habits" for some officials, with "feudal and superstitious activities making a resurgence", including a fall in the number of cremations, the building of ornate mausoleums and holding of over-the-top funerals.

This "damages the image of the party and the government, and harms social morals", the government said in a statement on its main website (www.gov.cn).

Cremations have been encouraged by the officially atheist Communist Party as a way to save much needed agricultural land in the world's most populous country.

In traditional Chinese culture, the dead are supposed to be accompanied by the living in the first few days of death, leading to mourners setting up tents where people can gather in front of the body and a shrine.

Funerals can be lavish affairs, complete with hundreds of mourners and elaborate rituals, customs still followed by some of the Chinese diaspora overseas.

The government said such practices had to stop in China.

"Party members and officials have to proactively promote funeral reform, and guide family members, friends and the masses, to prevent bad funeral habits in a timely way and stop ... feudal and superstitious activities."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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