Firework ban could go up in smoke
Beijing could lift its ban on fireworks during the Chinese Lunar New Year, the municipal government announced yesterday.
The local regulation is expected to be revised within the year and submitted to the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, the city's legislature, for approval.
But the city is not planning to allow fireworks to be set off everywhere. There are expected to be special zones where they can be let off.
"The revision will respect the views of most local residents," Zhou Jidong, director of the Legal Affairs Office of Beijing Municipal Government, said yesterday.
Public opinion will be tested before revising the ban, according to Zhou.
Online surveys and meetings in residential communities are expected to be adopted.
Meanwhile, professional organiza-tions will also be invited to survey residents, according to the official.
The capital city implemented the ban in 1993.
It expanded the affected area from the Third Ring Road to the Fifth Ring Road for this year's Spring Festival.
"However, many legislators and local residents have appealed for the lifting of the ban," Zhou said.
"Meanwhile, there were problems in enforcing the ban during the Lunar New Year. The local government invested a lot of money and personnel in supervision, but this did not bring a desirable result," he said.
"So the municipal government decided to revise it," Zhou said.
The official admitted that the local government was under pressure, as are other domestic cities that once forbade fireworks, to remove the ban.
"Setting off firecrackers is believed by many to be a traditional activity at Spring Festival," he said.
Chinese people's penchant for fireworks has made it difficult for cities to implement the bans.
In Beijing, the sound of firecrackers could be heard almost everywhere during the last Spring Festival, including in downtown areas. The authorities say they are perplexed by the ineffectiveness of the ban.
Zhou urged the local bureau of public security to strengthen management over letting off fireworks at gas stations and warehouses, which will continue to be forbidden even if the ban is lifted.
Meanwhile, the city government has also announced that foreigners will be able to invest in public areas in Beijing.
"We will draft a regulation to make urban infrastructure construction market-oriented," Zhang Yan, an official responsible for the item at the Legal Affairs Office, said yesterday.
Foreign investment is being encouraged in the construction of water, gas and heating supplies, public transportation and waste and garbage treatment.
Furthermore, competition will also be introduced into electricity supply, telecommunications, railways, civil aviation and the oil industry.
Investment from Hong Kong was authorized in February to build and operate the No 4 subway line in Beijing during the next 30 years.
The two above-mentioned items were part of the city's legislative programme released yesterday.
Other proposals include a regulation to guarantee safety at large-scale social activities which will be drafted within the year.
How to demolish houses in historic protection zones in Beijing will also be the subject of legislation.
(China Daily 04/07/2005 page3)