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Beijing expands pyrotechnic-free areas
By Di Fang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-02-07 06:56

The area of Beijing subject to the 12-year-old ban on firecrackers is set to expand during Spring Festival, while another 180 cities across the country including Guangzhou and Lanzhou will continue to uphold the ban.

According to the firecracker ban office of Beijing, this year's areas affected by the outlawing of firecrackers have expanded from the Third Ring Road to the area around the Fifth Ring Road. What were previously the outskirts of the city are now densely populated with residents who have moved from small downtown apartments to more spacious outlying ones.

Besides Dongcheng and Xicheng districts and the six other urban districts of Chongwen, Xuanwu, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan, the new regulations will now affect the outlying districts and counties of Daxing, Tongzhou, Shunyi, Changping, Fangshan, Mentougou, Huairou, Pinggu and Miyun.

Out of safety concerns, fireworks are also forbidden in areas close to railway stations, bus stops, airports, schools, hospitals, gas stations, warehouses and other public facilities.

Sources with the firecracker ban office in Beijing said the number of injuries caused by firecrackers has decreased significantly in recent years thanks to the ban and a crackdown on the production and selling of inferior firecrackers.

However, five people were killed by festive explosives during the 2004 Spring Festival and two in 2003, according to the firecracker ban office.

Setting off firecrackers was previously considered a sign of the traditional festival.

But since the 1990s, many Chinese cities adopted the ban during the festival season.

In Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, the local government introduced the ban in eight urban districts and the prosperous areas of other districts and affiliated cities.

Local police also made more severe the punishments for those selling or setting off fireworks in the city.

Wang Fushu, who was caught last Thursday transporting 2 tons of firecrackers in a truck without authorization, was detained for five days by local police in Conghua, a city affiliated to Guangzhou.

In the face of heightened restrictions elsewhere, 105 Chinese cities including Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao and Hangzhou relaxed the ban on firecrackers in the lunar New Year period.

In these cities, setting off firecrackers is permitted in fixed areas at certain times.

An official with the Shanghai Municipal Fire Bureau surnamed Fan said that if supervised well, firecrackers will not lead to fire or injury, the Beijing News reported.

Feng Jicai, a famous writer and researcher of folk arts and customs, said that setting off firecrackers was an important folk custom closely related with Spring Festival.  

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