Chinese man with Down Syndrome killed in elaborate body-swapping scheme

The family believed they would swap their family members body with someone who was already dead.
The family believed they would swap their family members body with someone who was already dead. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Chinese man with Down Syndrome has been killed in a body-swap plot to ensure another dead man could be buried, not cremated. 

While traditionally burials are favoured in China, much of the dead are cremated, especially in big cities. 

This is because cities often enforce bans on burials due to a lack of space - these rules sometimes forcing families to go to extreme lengths to protect their dead loved ones' wishes. 

According to BBC, a man from south-east China, dying from cancer in 2017, expressed his wish to his family to be buried rather than cremated, which is mandated in his home city of Shanwei. 

Since the man lived in a region where burials were banned, his family embarked on an elaborate body-swapping plan which would see a substitute body cremated in place of his. 

The family paid a man, identified by only his surname Huang, US $16,300 to find what they assumed would be an already dead body to be cremated. 

It was later revealed Huang kidnapped and killed a man with Down Syndrome to fulfill the body swap.

Huang had spotted the man picking up litter from the street, he then persuaded him to enter his car before feeding him alcohol to the point of passing out. 

He put the man's body in a coffin and presented it to the family in exchange for money, of which US $13,700 went to him and the rest to a middle man.

The family proceeded to have the coffin with the murdered man cremated and went ahead with a traditional burial for their family member who died from cancer. 

Eventually, the murdered man was reported missing and a police investigation was underway. Police took two years to track down Huang who was sentenced to death in September 2020. He appealed this and was then sentenced to life in prison in December 2020. 

The family who hired Huang were found guilty of "insulting a corpse". BBC reports that while they weren't sentenced to prison it's unclear as to whether they were fined. 

The story has only come to light publicly this year after a Chinese news outlet spoke with the victim's family and published a story on the ordeal.