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Spring Festival Not So Merry for Some Beijingers

Most Beijingers got a joyous Chinese Spring Festival, from Jan. 21 to 28, but a few did not, either being injured by firecrackers, having driving licenses suspended or being cheated by "friendly" foreigners.


Illegally-lit firecrackers claimed four lives and injured 165 people and Beijing police punished 248 people for the firecracker trading and lighting, Friday's Beijing News quoted Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau as saying.


Firecrackers also ignited one-third of the 1,084 fire accidents during the eight days, causing another three deaths.


Beijing banned firecrackers in 1993, but most Beijingers are still reluctant to say farewell to the traditional mark of joyous occasions for generations of Chinese.


During the Spring Festival season, traffic accidents in Beijing killed 18 people. The police suspended 170,000 driver's licenses and detained 142,000 vehicles and 700 drivers for various traffic violations, such as speeding and overloading.


Beijing had registered more than 2 million vehicles, including over 900,000 private cars by the end of 2003, while one in three urban residents in the municipality had a driving license.


An unidentified Beijinger was reported in the Beijing News as being cheated by two foreign males outside a drug store near the Beijing Exhibition Hall. The two foreigners requested to take a look at the man's new edition of Chinese RMB and cheated 2,600 yuan (some US$313) from him, the Beijinger said.


It was reported that since this year, 26 such cases have happened in the city.


(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2004)


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