September 2, 2008 / 2:50 AM / 11 years ago

Chinese arrested in cash-for-corpse gang murder probe

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese police have arrested members of a gang suspected of murdering more than 100 disabled or elderly people and selling their corpses in a bizarre scheme to avoid cremations, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

Burials have traditionally been seen as the most respectful way to handle the dead in China, but were discouraged after the Communists came to power in 1949 to conserve farmland and eradicate superstition.

The bodies were bought by wealthy families and sent for cremation in lieu of deceased relatives who were then secretly buried, the South China Morning Post reported.

The killers would trail their victims, usually mentally disabled or elderly people, “drag them into vehicles in remote areas and either strangle or poison them”, the newspaper said.

An unnamed police officer from Puning, in southern Guangdong province, said about seven suspects were arrested three weeks ago when police discovered the gang while investigating a homicide, the Post said.

Corpses would sell for 10,000 yuan ($1,465) each, it said, without specifying the charges against those being held.

($1 = 6.825 yuan)

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Nick Macfie

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