BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing authorities have banned people from burning the clothes of dead relatives – a traditional funerary rite to ensure they can dress in the afterlife – as an anti-pollution measure for an international summit, state-run media said Tuesday.
The move comes days ahead of the opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, when Chinese President Xi Jinping will host leaders from the United States, Russia and Japan among others.
Authorities in the notoriously smog-ridden capital have imposed tight limits on car use, ordered factories to close, and are giving public sector employees a six-day holiday, with some neighbouring areas also following suit with restrictions. A notice at Beijing’s sprawling Babaoshan cemetery states that “the incineration of the clothing of the deceased will be suspended” from November 1 to 15 due to APEC, according to the Beijing News. “We kindly ask your understanding for any inconvenience this may cause,” the notice reads.
The burning of clothing to make it available to the deceased – along with paper representations of other goods – is part of the rituals of death in much of China.
It is not the first time that small-scale smoke sources have been targeted in the country’s battles against pollution, with street-side barbecue stands sometimes blamed. China’s heavy air pollution is primarily caused by the enormous use of coal to generate electricity to power a booming economy, and by more vehicles on the roads.