Development and Urbanization
This paper studies an emerging phenomenon in urban China: the dead bodies, some decades old, kept in overcrowded morgues across Chinese cities. Some of the corpses are nameless and others contested. The Chinese government has issued a number of regulations to manage the dead but has not been able to solve what the Chinese media has considered an ongoing crisis--the accumulation of the long dead bodies. Why? This paper explores this problem from the legal, administrative, and social aspects to uncover various causes of this phenomenon. Based on detailed case studies, the paper demonstrates the deeply rooted tensions generated from China's rapid urbanization as represented and reflected by those corpses in limbo. Such corpses have become hostages in the struggle between the people and the authorities for control, justice, and economic interest. These cases also show the challenge in creating human-centered cities and the limit of the Chinese state power.