Beijing is expected to end its 12-year ban on setting off firecrackers during the traditional Spring Festival because of public demand.
Municipal officials announced yesterday that residents will be permitted to set off fireworks during the next holiday, from New Year's Eve to Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese New Year), in all districts of the city.
Zhou Jidong, director of the Legislative Affairs Office under the Beijing municipal government, said: "We are changing the policy to meet the strong requests from the public."
During this year's Lunar New Year, no one was allowed to light firecrackers within the Fifth Ring Road because of concerns about safety and the environment.
Zhou emphasized that firecrackers will still be banned at transportation hubs, government locations, military organizations, historical relics and other places that might easily catch fire and explode.
The Legislative Affairs Office has finished the draft of the Beijing municipal regulation on firecracker safety supervision, to replace the current ban.
The draft will be submitted to the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress for approval.
The detailed schedule has not been fixed, Zhou told China Daily yesterday.
But he hoped the new regulation will become effective ahead of next year's Spring Festival, which falls on January 29.
Zhou stressed: "Although the ban will be removed, it does not mean that the government is encouraging the lighting of firecrackers in the city."
The ban in Beijing was seriously questioned during this year's festival period as explosions were frequently heard in the downtown area, although posters reading "firecrackers banned" were seen everywhere.
According to an investigation conducted by the Beijing Municipal Social Survey Centre, among 5,900 residents, nearly 80 percent were in favour of letting off firecrackers during the Lunar New Year.
Other surveys show as many as 63 percent of people want to light fireworks during the festival.
The bang of firecrackers during Spring Festival marks the passing of the old year. Traditionally, 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.
However, Zhou said some people strongly appose ending the ban. Li Xuan, a Beijing resident said: "The population of Beijing is nearly 17 million. Allowing firecrackers is dangerous."
He said firecrackers would be noisy and cause injuries and fires.
Zhou promised the local government would adopt various measures to ensure safety.
(China Daily June 3, 2005)