Fireworks ban goes up in smoke in Beijing
Beijing formally removed the 12-year ban on setting off firecrackers on Friday, although there are still some restrictions on the time and the place of this traditional Chinese activity.
Within the Fifth Ring Road, lighting firecrackers will be permitted anytime on lunar New Year's Eve and Lunar New Year's Day, as well as from 7:00 am to midnight during the following 14 days.
Outside this area, which is considered the boundary separating the rural and urban areas, district and county governments have been authorized to decide which areas have restrictions.
People will be allowed to set off firecrackers anytime and anywhere in other areas.
Lunar New Year's Day next year falls on Sunday, January 29.
The Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, the city's legislative body, adopted the rule to remove the ban on Friday by a 49-9 vote.
The original draft of the rule was revised twice before the final version was reached.
Initially, the draft said setting off fireworks would be permitted in the 16 days of Spring Festival anywhere in Beijing.
However, that provision was challenged during a public hearing last month. Most of the speakers appealed to have the time period reduced for the sake of peace and quiet.
In a draft revision that was discussed on Wednesday, the deadline for lighting firecrackers within the Fifth Ring Road was fixed at 11:00 pm.
"But upon suggestions from Standing Committee members, we postponed the time limit to midnight because of concerns about tradition, and difficulty in law enforcement," Wang Jiayan, vice-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, said on Friday.
Chinese tradition calls for the lighting of firecrackers on midnight Lunar New Year's Eve as well as the first, fifth and 15th days of the first lunar month. Sounds of firecrackers are believed to scare away a monster called "nian" and are therefore a symbol of good luck.
Beijing banned firecrackers in 1993 for pollution and safety reasons.
However, as firecrackers are significant in the celebration of the Lunar New Year, the most important festival for Chinese people, the ban was challenged in recent years.
"Without firecrackers, Spring Festival is not a traditional one," said Li Xiaoxia, a Beijing resident. "Many complained that a Lunar New Year in which fireworks are banned is too quiet and lacking in tradition.
"I was really worried that our children and grandchildren could only know through history the tradition of lighting firecrackers during Spring Festival if we continue the ban. In fact, I envied those Chinese at Chinatowns in the United States when I saw them setting off fireworks on television."
Although the ban was removed with restrictions, eight types of places remain where the lighting of firecrackers is forbidden, such as cultural relics, airports, filling stations, kindergartens and forests.