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Disabled man kidnapped, sealed in coffin and cremated in place of rich stranger

A man with Down's syndrome was kidnapped, forced to drink until he was unconscious and then sealed in a coffin to be cremated in a case that has shocked China.

The convicted murderer, identified only by his surname Huang, has just had his suspended death sentence upheld by a court over the heinous crime in 2017.

Huang had been hired by a wealthy family whose relative had just died of lung cancer. On his death bed he had expressed a desire to be buried, but burials are illegal in their region and all corpses must be cremated by law.

They contracted Huang to locate a substitute body that could be cremated in the relative's place so that they could hold a secret burial.

On March 1, 2017, Huang spotted a man named Lin Shaoren, who was 36 and had Down's syndrome, picking up rubbish on the road near his home in Lufeng in Guangdong province.

Huang abducted the man and forced him to drink a huge amount of alcohol until he lost consciousness. He then placed the man inside a coffin he'd prepared in advance, sealing it shut with four steel nails.

The coffin was carried to a crossroad and swapped with the wealthy man's coffin two days later when it was due to be sent to a funeral home for cremation.

Instead it was Lin who was cremated, while the family took their relative's coffin to a secluded area for a traditional burial.

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They paid a total of 107,000 yuan (£12,000) for the evil scheme, of which 90,000 yuan (£10,000) went to Huang while the rest went to a middleman identified by the surname Wen.

Lin was listed as a missing person for two years until his distraught family finally learned his horrific fate in November 2019 after local police used surveillance footage to solve the crime.

Huang was given a suspended death sentence by a court in Shanwei last September. He appealed to the Guangdong Higher People's Court, but was dismissed in December.

Burial is illegal throughout much of China due to Chairman Mao's 1956 pro-cremation policy, in which he said burials take up too much precious land and are not befitting of an atheist state.

It was left to local governments whether to ban burials outright or just encourage cremation for environmental purposes.

Most Chinese citizens living in urban areas are now cremated, but in the vast countryside the historically significant practice of burying loved ones under a field is still fairly widespread, even if people have to sidestep local laws prohibiting it.

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