|Spring Festival fireworks: Time to get cracking?|
Harbin Ice-Snow World, one of the world's largest ice and snow theme parks, located in Heilongjiang Province, rings in the New Year with a fireworks display on December 31, 2021 (XINHUA）
In advance of the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival holiday this year (January 21-27), China rolled out new policies on fireworks. Beijing's ban on fireworks within the city's Fifth Ring Road, implemented on January 1, 2022, remained in place for 2023, but in Dongying and Binzhou of Shandong Province, local governments made it clear people would be free to set off fireworks during the country's biggest holiday.
The topic of whether fireworks and firecrackers should be banned and how to draft a rational arrangement for Spring Festival fireworks has sparked heated public debate this year.
Qiu Lihua (Zhejiang Daily): Those who had hoped to see the ban removed put forward three reasons. First, people feel depressed after experiencing three years of a pandemic and fireworks will help drive away the shadows it's left behind; Second, the sulfur contained in fireworks and firecrackers may kill viruses lingering in the air; Third, setting off fireworks is a time-honored festive tradition in China and so without fireworks, the overall Spring Festival atmosphere is pointedly watered down.
I for one believe the fireworks ban is necessary. Before the ban was in place, fireworks and firecrackers frequently led to blazes and related accidents. Moreover, they pollute the air and can harm the human respiratory system. The claim that sulfur helps eliminate SARS-CoV-2 is a baseless one.
Then what can we do to dispel the depressing shadows the pandemic has cast over the country and make the Lunar New Year celebrations more colorful? The answer is to revive rich traditional folk culture, such as visiting temple fairs and watching traditional operas.
Currently, we are moving from pandemic-related restrictions to a reboot of economic growth. Compared with fireworks, the revival of traditional festive cultures, which may also boost consumption of a range of goods and activities, can bring more lasting and more environmentally friendly impetus.
Editorial (www.gmw.cn): There are numerous reasons for the fireworks ban. In the years when the ban was absent, no one could escape the thundering of fireworks on Lunar New Year's Eve. The bangs and flashes would wake up children and seniors especially and even some young people complained about the noise pollution. Worse still, communities were covered in smoke and debris from fireworks and firecrackers. And there was no lack of accounts documenting fireworks blowing up community facilities or people suffering burns. All these led to a social consensus on a near-sweeping ban on fireworks across the country for the past few years.
But indeed, fireworks are part of traditional Chinese folk culture. Given the opinions from both opponents and proponents of the ban, there needs to be a compromised balance between protecting cultural traditions and protecting public health and safety. The task at hand is how to upgrade this "flawed" tradition to a more acceptable and civilized one.
Ban Laoxi (Hechi Daily): Both supporters and opponents of the fireworks ban offer good reasons.
The former sees it from the perspective of human safety and environmental protection while the latter values the protection of a beloved traditional custom. After all, this longstanding custom does not necessarily go against the grain of modern lifestyles or cultural values.
Local governments should pay more attention to residents' actual demands on whether to impose a ban and a universal ban should be the last option. One suggestion would be to allocate explicit timeslots for a city, or certain districts of a city, to set off fireworks. Meanwhile, the distribution of fireworks-related safety guidelines should be amped up. This way, while carrying on tradition, the environment, community facilities and people remain safe from harm.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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