2019-09-27 09:18:41

Police in eastern China’s Zhejiang province have detained a man after he removed a cellphone from a coffin and transferred 9,500 yuan ($1,300) from the deceased man’s bank account to himself, the state-run China News Service reported Thursday.

The dead man’s son realized something was amiss earlier this month after a local social security bureau told him medical reimbursements and funeral fees totaling 9,500 yuan had been transferred to his father’s bank account. But when the son went to the bank, he found almost no money in the account. A police investigation discovered several transactions on the father’s account made in August — months after he had passed away.

According to police, the money was transferred from the father’s account on WeChat — an app widely used in China for messaging, mobile payments, and a host of other services — to the account of a 21-year-old man police referred to using the pseudonym Li Li.

Li Li reportedly told police that he had decided to “try his luck” in the village cemetery because he needed money but wasn’t much for work. He recounted how he would go to the cemetery alone in the dead of night, uncover the coffins, and take whatever coins had been left as offerings. He would steal from several graves each night, he said, taking away anywhere from 30 to 80 yuan.

In August, Li Li chanced upon a cellphone in one of the coffins. After numerous attempts, he managed to figure out the mobile payment password for the late owner’s WeChat account. After helping himself to 1,000 yuan, Li Li put the phone back in the coffin. When that money ran out, he came back for more.

With the rising popularity of green funerals and interment options, more Chinese are embracing cremation and requesting that their ashes be scattered at sea or buried under trees. However, in less-developed areas, some people believe that when a person dies and is laid to rest in the ground, they will be at peace, free from whatever troubles they faced in life. Funerary offerings ranging from food to jewelry are believed to give the dearly departed a better life in the next world while also ensuring that future generations flourish.

Li Li is currently being detained in Changxing County on suspicion of theft, local police said, and the case is being processed.

In 2017, a man in Shanghai was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 50,000 yuan after he removed an urn of ashes from a coffin and demanded 1.5 million yuan in ransom from the deceased’s family to have them returned.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A cemetery in Nantong, Jiangsu province, April 5, 2019. Xu Hui/VCG)