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Beijing Police Destroy 78 Mln Illegal Firecrackers

More than 78 million confiscated illegal firecrackers were destroyed yesterday after a crackdown on people cashing in on Beijing lifting its 12-year ban on fireworks being used in China's Lunar New Year.

The firecrackers, worth 2.6 million yuan (US$320,000), were detonated by the police department in Daxing District, southern suburb of Beijing. Ninety-five suspects were also put into custody for their alleged involvement in illegal trading.

Beijingers will be permitted to let off firecrackers for the first time in more than a decade to celebrate their family reunion during the Spring Festival, which falls on January 29.

According to the city's regulations, lighting firecrackers will be allowed in the city for a 15-day period from the day of the Spring Festival to the day of 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 Co-operatives, the capital's only 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 metres have been allocated with the capacity to store 250,000 boxes of firecrackers, it said.

But the ending of the ban has brought a rise in the illegal transportation, storage and sales of firecrackers, said officials in charge of fireworks management under the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security.

The inflow of illegal fireworks from surrounding provinces, especially Hebei, has had a severe impact on the city's administration of fireworks, police officials said.

By last Friday, officers in Beijing had dealt with 73 firework-related cases and given punishments to 104 people, statistics from the official's office indicated.

A four-day work safety overhaul was also launched yesterday in Beiing to supervise the storage, transportation and sales of firecrackers in the capital, officials said.

The easing of the ban to the permitted lighting of firecrackers in restricted areas in Beijing would serve as a test-case for the city as well for the whole country in this regard, said Sun Huashan, vice-director of the State Administration of Work Safety.

Lessons would be drawn from the capital and expanded to other cities in China, said Sun, who headed a supervision panel dispatched by the State Council.

Meanwhile, police officials stressed that more local residents should be mobilized to lend a hand in supervising the lighting of firecrackers during the upcoming festival period.

In China's tradition, firecrackers are believed to be able to drive away demons, especially on Lunar New Year's Eve. This tradition has been handed down from generation to generation for centuries in China.

(China Daily December 23, 2005)

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