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Let the people decide the future of firework ban
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-02-18 08:30

The festive week-long Spring Festival holiday ended on Tuesday, but the controversy about the ban on fireworks in some cities is still raging.

Fireworks light up the sky over Victoria harbour in Hong Kong. More than 100 Chinese cities have lifted a 10-year ban on fireworks for the Lunar New Year holidays, China's most important holiday. [AFP]

Setting off fireworks and firecrackers is a long-standing and an integral part of Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.

But residents in many cities have not been able to observe this festive holiday in their traditional manner for years.

Besides bringing joy and adding a more "festive atmosphere" to the holiday, letting off fireworks will also result in pollution, personal injuries and fires.

Citing these reasons, Beijing took the lead to ban the fireworks in 1993, and nearly 300 cities followed suit.

But as a thousand-year-old tradition, setting off fireworks is deeply steeped into the celebration of the most important family holiday.

For many Chinese, Spring Festival without fireworks is like Christmas without Christmas trees to many Westerners.

Expectedly, the ban is opposed by many and it has never been well abided by in the cities.

Defying the ban, loud bangs of fireworks being set off could be heard throughout the cities.

The overwhelming public outcry has forced local governments to budge on the issue, with some partially lifting the ban or some simply scrapping it totally.

We could not help but ask why such an unpopular and much-resented ban got through in the first place?

Although fireworks also bring disasters, we can still enjoy it by strengthening safety measures during the production, transport, storage and setting off process, rather than simply banning it.

As a decision affecting millions of people and also touching on the cultural tradition, the introduction of the ban should have been pushed ahead carefully with public opinion well represented.

But it was not.

The public's voice was conspicuously absent in those decision-making procedures leading to the ban, which is the main reason why it lacks the support from citizens.

However well-intended, government policies, especially those directly related to public's immediate interests, should take into consideration their views before they are drafted.

In the case of the fireworks for our Lunar New Year celebrations, the cultural factor should also be taken notice of.

Banning the fireworks will greatly curb the attractiveness of this all-important festival.

Otherwise, the widespread public defiance of the ban will not only increase misunderstanding between the public and government but also tarnish respect for the law and regulations. This is the last thing both the public and government want.

Obviously, many local governments have taken heed.

It is reported that, under mounting public appeal, more than 100 cities have partially lifted or nullified the ban this year.

And more cities are reportedly going to hold public hearings to elicit public input in order to modify their ban. This is an encouraging step and one that should have been taken long ago.

I hope to hear the whiz, bang and fizz of fireworks let off safely next Spring Festival, for such noises are the sounds of a people embracing and enjoying their ancient culture.

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