Backgrounder: Why are Chinese so crazy about fireworks? 2009-02-10 16:53:29   Print

Special Report: Spring Festival Special 2009

    BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- As Beijing's fire authorities blamed powerful firecrackers for triggering the disastrous blaze at a deluxe hotel near to the new national television tower, the festive Chinese custom of using fireworks has again aroused safety concerns.

    The latest announcement Tuesday morning from the government said hundreds of "extremely powerful" firecrackers ignited the Mandarin Oriental Hotel next to the landmark building of China Central Television (CCTV) new headquarters, leading to the death of one fireman and huge economic loss.

    The big fire occurred on Lantern Festival, the last night that the Beijing municipal government allows fireworks in the capital's downtown areas. Beijing has the most stringent pyrotechnic restrictions in the country, and normally fireworks are banned.

    The night was also the last chance for Chinese to ignite fireworks to celebrate their Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, season that traditionally ends with Lantern Festival.

    The past two weeks saw a continual round of noisy and colorful firework explosions, some of which were so powerful that the city at times took on the feel of downtown Baghdad.

    Firework explosions are usually the heaviest on the Lunar New Year Eve, on the New Year morning, on the fifth day into the new year which is believed to be the birthday of the God of Wealth, and on the Lantern Festival after which people officially set out to work in the new year.

    Chinese have a tradition of setting off fireworks that has prevailed for 2,000 years. Superstitious ancients first used them to drive away evil spirits on festivals and funerals, or welcome fortune on joyful occasions such as weddings, house moving and graduation.

    Today's firecrackers, however, are more advanced in shooting high and making varied patterns in the air. Therefore, they are more likely to cause accidents.

    According to the China Fireworks Safety Net, fireworks could cause unexpected explosions or fires because of unqualified raw materials, poor design, incorrect ways of ignition, and so on.

    Local governments across China have been imposing total or partial bans on firecrackers in cities in the past decade or so. The result has been a mixed one as the enforcement was not strict enough and many people broke the rules.

    The Beijing Municipal Government banned firecrackers from 1993 to 2006. Since 2006, the government adopted a new measure which bans firecrackers within the Fifth Ring Road, or the city's urban area, but makes exceptions during the Lunar New Year season.

    Beijing still bans firecrackers in certain areas of the city such as protected cultural relics, public transport junctions, gas stations and so on. Factories and vendors that make or sell firecrackers must first obtain licenses from the government.

    Manufacturing and marketing restrictions, paradoxically, forced some fireworks lovers to grab cheap but unreliable products from less-regulated rural markets.

    This is the third year that Beijing conditionally loosens its total ban on lighting fireworks. The moratorium came in response to continual public complaints against the absolute no-fireworks policy.

    Most people complained that the 13-year ban was pointless as people honor the custom of welcoming new years by setting off fireworks, which are considered jubilant.

    Environmentalists, on the other hand, argue that igniting fireworks not only heavily pollutes the air but also triggers fire hazards.

    According to the International Fireworks Association headquartered in central China's Hunan Province, China now occupies 80 percent of the global fireworks market with more than 7,500 businesses making fireworks, mostly small workshops.

Firecrackers blamed for hotel fire near Beijing's new CCTV headquarters, 7 injured

    BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- A hotel adjacent to the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing caught fire Monday night.

    As of 0:45 a.m. Tuesday, the fire has been under control, but blaze could still be seen on upper floors, witnesses said.  Full story

Official: CCTV hotel fire caused by fireworks

    BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The blaze that caused one death and seven injuries at a hotel within the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters complex in Beijing Monday night was caused by fireworks, the city's fire control authorities said Tuesday.

    CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large festive firecrackers in an open space outside the nearly-completed Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is part of the iconic CCTV tower complex, said Luo Yuan, spokesman and deputy chief of Beijing Fire Control Bureau.  Full story

Official: CCTV itself responsible for Monday's massive fire

    BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- China Central Television (CCTV) itself was responsible for Monday night's massive fire that caused one death and seven injuries in its new headquarters complex in eastern Beijing, the city's fire control authorities said Tuesday.

    CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large festive firecrackers in an open space outside one of its nearly-completed buildings, said Luo Yuan, spokesman and deputy chief of Beijing Fire Control Bureau.  Full story

Editor: Xiong Tong
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