Beijing Bans Clothes-Burning Funeral Tradition during APEC Summit to Stave Off Pollution

Beijing Bans Clothes-Burning Funeral Tradition during APEC Summit to Stave Off Pollution

The Chinese government is banning individuals in Beijing from burning the clothes of dead relatives–a common tradition–during this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Co-Operation Summit (APEC) in an attempt to diminish the alarm pollution raises in the capital.

According to the BBC, Beijing’s Babaoshan cemetery announced the measure last week, declaring in a public notice that those who use the services of the cemetery, “The incineration of the clothing of the deceased will be suspended” from November 1st through the 15th due to the conference. Clothes are often burnt as an offering to the spirit of the deceased, BBC explains, so they may bring clothing with them after death. 

While it is not immediately clear whether the suspension will have any effect on Beijing’s pollution levels, the BBC notes that “[burning clothes] is a relatively small source of smoke compared to the heavy air pollution caused by the use of coal to generate electricity and power factories.”

The South China Morning Post notes that some limitations appear to have been set in place for factories and car use, as well: “Authorities … 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.” The newspaper also notes that pollution levels are so high that they have interfered with Beijing’s marathon, when spectators could see runners “battling a thick white haze” while running.

Beijing’s smog problems are among the world’s worst, so potent that some of the air pollution has begun to impact the United States’ West Coast. But Beijing is not the only part of the nation suffering from pollution damage; out of a total of 10% of China’s land usable for farming, 2% has been rendered too toxic to grow edible food in. The growing toxicity of China’s farmlands has triggered fears of a food shortage.  An estimated $300 billion is spent on resolving health issues directly attributable to pollution in China.

Despite the evidence of China’s vast natural destruction, international climate change initiatives have mostly let China continue its practices unabated, instead targeting the United States, a direct victim of China’s rampant pollution. Participating nations completely exempted China from any restrictions during the latest United Nations climate summit, and China itself has previously demanded United States business in exchange for any attempts at reducing pollution. Last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a 1,200-page rebuttal to the United Nations climate change consensus disagreeing with the argument that man-made climate change was the global threat UN officials have alleged.