Dozens of elderly Chinese people have been killing themselves to avoid a looming ban on burials.

The elderly suicides want to make sure their deaths are registered before Sunday, after which authorities in Anhui province will close all cemeteries.

Anyone who dies after that date will have to be cremated because, authorities say, cemeteries are taking up too much space.

In order to drive the message home council officials have been visiting funeral parlours and smashing up coffins.

The draconian move has only hastened the rate of suicide as elderly people rush to guarantee one of the few remaining graves.

The new rules were published on April 1.

In urban areas it has meant little change, but in rural areas the idea of cremation is abhorrent to many and there has been extreme opposition.

Local media have reported dozens of cases in which elderly people have killed themselves in order to qualify for a burial.

Zhang Wenying, 81, hanged herself on May 13. She left behind a note saying she had ended it all to make sure she could have a decent death, and she expected to be buried.

Another was 97-year-old Wu Lixiu, who died on May 12. There have also been deaths in the provincial capital, and in three villages elders recorded at least seven people who have committed suicide to make sure they avoid being cremated. – Daily Mail