A deceased fashion blogger’s ashes were stolen and nearly sold for a “ghost wedding,” weeks after she took her own life during a livestream on China’s version of TikTok.
The young woman, with the screen name Luoxiaomaomaozi, took out a bottle of pesticide and expressed suicidal thoughts during a livestream on short-video app Douyin in October. She drank some of it as viewers egged her on, according to Chinese media reports.
She was pronounced dead after being sent to a hospital following the stream. In her last short video, posted on Oct. 14, she said she had long suffered from depression, and the clip might be her last.
Her body was later cremated in a rural part of Shandong province. But the tragedy took an unexpected turn this week when local media reported that her ashes were stolen by a crematorium staff member and offered to an unrelated family for a “ghost marriage.”
The custom is popular in some parts of rural China, where people perform marriages for deceased relatives, especially single men, in the hope that they will have happy families in the afterlife.
Three men have been detained in connection with the theft of the livestreamer’s ashes. A source told Beijing News that the ashes could be worth between 50,000 to 70,000 Chinese yuan ($7,800 to $11,000). The wife of one of the men said they didn’t end up selling the ashes after talks with a potential buyer fell through.
The livestreamer’s experience has triggered an online outcry. Many internet users have condemned what they see as systematic abuse of women that extends even beyond death.
“If anyone talks again about women not being able to get married at an older age, I’ll tell them women would get wedded in ghost marriages even after they die,” a person commented on the microblogging site Weibo.
Young women are increasingly pushing back against the gender discrimination, sexual abuse, and domestic violence faced by women in China. A #MeToo movement recently hit a former Communist Party leader, although Peng Shuai, the tennis player who posted the sexual assault allegations online, has been put under blanket censorship.
Several trending hashtags about the ghost marriage controversy were later removed by Weibo, indicating censors are trying to quell the outrage.
Families of deceased bachelors sometimes struggle to find remains of deceased single women for ghost weddings, since the one-child policy and selective abortions have caused skewed sex ratios in rural China in favor of men. Those looking to profit from the demand have in the past resorted to stealing female corpses and even murdering women.
In February, a man in northwestern China was executed after he was convicted of killing two women with mental illnesses and selling their corpses for ghost weddings.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.
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