More than 78 million confiscated illegal firecrackers were destroyed yesterday in a crackdown on people cashing in on Beijing lifting its 12-year ban on fireworks at Spring Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The firecrackers, worth 2.6 million yuan (US$320,000), were detonated by police in Daxing District, a southern suburb of the capital. Ninety-five suspects have been taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the illegal trade.
Beijingers will be permitted to let off firecrackers for the first time in more than a decade to celebrate family reunions during Spring Festival, which falls on January 29 this time round.
According to city regulations, lighting firecrackers will be allowed in central areas for the 15-day period from Spring Festival itself to Lantern Festival.
For security and environmental protection, hundreds of Chinese cities had banned fireworks in urban areas since the 1980s.
But more than 100 of them, including Chengdu, Harbin and Shanghai, have since eased the restrictions under pressure from local people.
The Beijing Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives, the capital's only licensed fireworks distributor, has so far ordered and transported more than 149,000 boxes of fireworks and firecrackers for the coming Spring Festival, Beijing Daily said yesterday.
Depots of more than 12,000 square meters have been allocated with a capacity to store 250,000 boxes of firecrackers, it said.
But the end of the ban has brought a rise in the illegal transportation, storage and sales of firecrackers, said officials in charge of fireworks management at Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
The inflow of illegal fireworks from surrounding provinces, especially Hebei, has had a severe impact on the city's fireworks administration, police officials said.
By last Friday, officers in the capital said they had dealt with 73 firework-related cases and penalized 104 people.
A four-day work safety overhaul was also launched in Beijing yesterday to supervise the storage, transportation and sales of firecrackers in the capital, officials said.
They said more local residents should be mobilized to lend a hand in supervising the lighting of firecrackers during the upcoming festival period.
In China, firecrackers are traditionally believed to drive away demons, especially on Lunar New Year's Eve.
(China Daily December 23, 2005)