• Reuters

China’s Fireworks Ban Sparks Fiery Debate ahead of Lunar New Year

REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
People watch a rehearsal of a fireworks display near the National Stadium ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China June 25, 2021.

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese lawmakers on Friday weighed in on a fiery online debate on whether fireworks should be used to ring in the Lunar New Year in February, saying a total ban on pyrotechnics in the country credited with inventing them would be hard to implement.

In an unusually frank response, lawmakers said air pollution prevention laws and fire safety regulations have led to “differences in understanding” of the ban on fireworks, which was never absolute.

In 2017, official data showed 444 cities had banned fireworks. Since then, some cities have scaled back curbs, allowing fireworks at certain times of the year and at designated venues.

This month, however, many counties rolled out notices prohibiting fireworks, rekindling discussion on the ban.

“We’ve the right to fireworks,” wrote a user of Weibo, a popular Chinese microblog.

According to folklore, the earliest fireworks were invented 2,000 years ago to drive away the “nian,” a mythical beast that preyed on people and livestock on the eve of the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival.

Since then, fireworks have been used to celebrate other occasions: this January, after three years of COVID-19 curbs were lifted, some people defied bans – and authorities – and set off firecrackers.

But some Chinese said the firework bans were necessary to protect the environment.

“It should be regulated due to pollution and safety (fire) hazards,” a Weibo user said.

In an online poll by the official Beijing Youth Daily this week, however, over 80% of respondents expressed support for fireworks during the Spring Festival, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar.

Some also said the ban was ironic after the United Nations last week adopted the Spring Festival as an official holiday, a move cheered by Chinese officials.

“The Spring Festival belongs to the world, but China’s is almost gone,” wrote another Weibo user.

In southern Hunan province, a major fireworks manufacturing hub, exports totalled 4.11 billion yuan ($579 million) in January to November, state media reported, far exceeding domestic sales.

($1 = 7.0974 yuan)