BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained a "sorcerer" who killed 10 people and sold their bodies to bereaved families to cremate in the place of loved ones who were secretly buried, police and a state-run newspaper reported Thursday. The 34-year-old man, surnamed Lin, strangled or poisoned the 10 villagers at his home, next to a temple, in the southern province of Guangdong, the Beijing Morning Post said.
Chinese tradition, especially in rural villages, holds that burial brings peace to the dead and tombs are placed according to the laws of geomancy. But in a country of 1.3 billion people, the seemingly haphazard siting of graves wastes scarce farmland. Since 1978, when China launched its reform drive, all levels of government have recommended cremation to save land.
"This region cremates its dead, but local people prefer to be buried in the ground. People bought the bodies to be cremated in place of their relatives," a police official told Reuters Thursday.
Lin, whom the newspaper called a sorcerer locals consulted to communicate with spirits, sold the bodies for 1,000 to 8,000 yuan ($120 to $966) each, the newspaper quoted local police as saying.
Police caught Lin plying his trade in corpses in mid-August in the city of Shantou, it said.
Chinese newspapers, unrestrained by the contempt of court laws of the West, often quote police confirming guilt or a confession before a defendant has been charged or the case has gone to court.
Communist China considers itself free of mass violence. Its sensationalist but still self-censoring media tend to play down cases of serial murderers. A Beijing taxi driver was executed in June for killing seven people, including four prostitutes. Last year, China executed one of its worst serial killers in history, a man who murdered 67 people and raped two dozen women in a four-year spree.
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