Written by Kunal Gaurav

A man with Down’s syndrome was kidnapped and murdered to take the place of a rich stranger in a gruesome body swapping scheme in China

The perpetrator, identified only by his surname Huang, was handed a suspended death sentence by the Guangdong Higher People’s Court over the 2017 crime.

Huang was hired by a family to provide a substitute body for cremation in place of their deceased loved one, court records show, but instead of finding another dead body, he killed a man.  

Body swapping is not unheard of in China, according to the BBC, which said it occurs mainly in rural areas where traditional burial rites are highly valued.
Pictured: Jiangxi cemetery garden in China [Stock image]

Traditional burials are favored in China but bans are in place in many parts of the country and cremations are mandatory in Guangdong province, where the family live.  

Huang kidnapped and killed the man with Down’s syndrome but the death went largely unnoticed until an article on the incident appeared online last week, the BBC reported. 

Huang spotted the unnamed man picking up litter from the street, asked him to get into a car and plied him with alcohol until he passed out.

Traditional burials are banned in parts of China

It is not clear exactly how the man died but his body was placed in a coffin and passed onto the family days later.

They paid 107,000 yuan ($16,300) to Huang and a middle man who has since passed away, once the coffin was delivered.

The family then had the coffin cremated in place of their deceased relative, who later received a traditional burial in secret.

Chinese authorities have encouraged people to cremate their dead in order to save space and discourage elaborate burial ceremonies.
Cremated remains are usually kept in columbarium walls

The victim was reported missing in 2017 and, after more than two years, police uncovered the crime and tracked down Huang.

In September 2020, he was given a suspended death sentence. His subsequent appeal was dismissed by the Guangdong Higher People’s Court three months later.

The sentence will be commuted to life in prison if Huang does not reoffend after two years.

The BBC reported that the family who hired Huang were found guilty of ‘insulting a corpse’. They did not receive a prison sentence but it was unclear whether they had to pay a fine.

The family reportedly did not know that the substitute body was a murder victim, assuming Huang would find another corpse.  

The bizarre events gained national prominence last week following an interview with the victim’s family by a news outlet, the BBC said.

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