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Safety First in Talks to Lift Firecrackers Ban

Safety is the top concern in legislation to lift the 12-year ban on setting off firecrackers in Beijing, which was discussed by local legislators yesterday.


If all goes according to plan, people will be allowed to set off firecrackers starting from the next Lunar New Year. The Year of the Dog starts January 29, 2006.


However, firecrackers would still be forbidden near cultural relics, airports, gas stations, forests and military facilities, according to director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security Ma Zhenchuan.


"The restriction aims to guarantee safety," Ma said yesterday in a report to the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress.


The draft emphasizes safety management in selling, transporting and setting off fireworks.


However, "it is forbidden to produce firecrackers in Beijing," the draft said.


The only fireworks factory in the capital was closed earlier this year because it did not meet safety requirements, Ma said.


"In consideration of the fact that Beijing is the capital city, we planned to forbid any firecracker production for concern of safety, social order and environmental protection," he said.


The draft also requires that sales locations of firecrackers in Beijing have approval from the local safety production supervision departments and that the police approve the transport of firecrackers.


Ma also pointed out that not all types of firecrackers will be permitted "to guarantee safety from the root."


Although the list of permitted firecrackers is not yet fixed, it is predicted that Beijing will forbid large and dangerous firecrackers.


Chairman of the Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs under the Beijing Municipal People's Congress Zheng Gang said yesterday that the responsibilities of the various governmental departments in the supervision of firecrackers should be clarified in the legislation.


"The public security, safety supervision, industry and commerce, quality supervision, communications and urban affairs management departments should take their own responsibilities individually on the issue," he said.


Furthermore, the committee advised adding a provision that minors under 14 must have adult supervision when setting off firecrackers.


"Minors under 14 played a major role in causing fires and casualties when lighting firecrackers," Zheng said, referring to the last time setting off firecrackers was legal in Beijing.


During this year's Spring Festival, anyone within the Fifth Ring Road was forbidden to light firecrackers because of concerns about safety and the environment.


However, the policy was questioned as explosions were frequently heard in the downtown area, even though posters reading "firecrackers banned" were seen everywhere.


According to a survey conducted by the Beijing Municipal Social Affairs Investigation Centre, 86 per cent of the local residents favoured lifting the ban.


After the first discussion yesterday, the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress is expected to hold a second discussion later this year.


(China Daily July 20, 2005)


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