Death and Dying in China

A guide to what to do when someone dies in China: reporting and registering the death, arranging a burial or cremation and how to repatriate a body to the deceased's home country...

Reporting and Registering a Death

If someone dies in China when they are not in a hospital, the first thing that should be done is to telephone the local Public Security Bureau (the local police service).

There is no specific procedure for registering a death in China, and the process varies around the country. Some parts of the country are administered by the Ministry of Health, and in these areas a death certificate must be issued. In these regions a death certificate is needed to arrange a burial. Death certificates can be issued by a hospital or a public security bureau.
A death certificate contains the following information about the deceased:

  • Their age and gender
  • Their marital status
  • The address of their permanent residence
  • The place and cause of death
  • Their education and job

In the rest of the country, a death certificate is recommended but not required.

Cremation and Burial

As land is expensive in China, burial is not encouraged, and is only common in rural areas. It is always very expensive. Funeral homes can arrange burial or cremation. They can organise all the necessary paperwork once the next of kin have given permission to do so. All funeral homes in China are government run and tend to involve a lot of bureaucracy. It is advisable to contact the local embassy or consulate for assistance in dealing with a death in China.

Following a cremation, the remains can be stored at a funeral home, buried in a cemetery or scattered. A ceremony can be arranged if the family wishes it.

Repatriation of a Foreigner

The local embassy or consulate can be very helpful when arranging the repatriation of a deceased person to their home country. They can provide assistance with the required paperwork, negotiate Chinese exit requirements and arrange transport of the body.

There are a number of specialist funeral homes and repatriation companies operating in China who specialise in transporting human remains around the world. They can deal with all of the administration involved in getting a deceased person back to their home country and can contact the local embassy or consulate if necessary. Funeral companies can be contacted by the deceased's employer. A funeral company generally needs the following information to arrange repatriation:

  • Full personal details of the deceased (name, date of birth, nationality)
  • The manner of the death
  • Location of the body and contact details for the funeral home
  • Knowledge of who is in possession of the deceased's passport, which is needed to arrange transport
  • Information on whether an autopsy should be carried out. In China, an autopsy is only compulsory if the death occurred in suspicious circumstances
  • The chosen repatriation mode (fully-embalmed remains or cremated remains)
  • Full details of the funeral home chosen to receive the remains

Most companies need the consent of the deceased's next of kin to proceed with repatriation. If there is no next of kin in the country, a consent signed by a proxy is required. This should include the family's wishes for the repatriation mode and whether they want an autopsy to be carried out.

Recent changes to flight security means that many airlines are no longer prepared to carry coffins.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia is not legal in China.

With contributions by Roseates, a repatriation service operating in China Tel: 0139 1107 5392, e-mail