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Beijing fireworks sales start with a bang
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-23 05:40

After a 12-year ban on the sale of fireworks in Beijing, Kang Guoliang, 50, was able to resume his old trade yesterday.

A salesman in Xinhui store in Dongcheng District, he is optimistic about the increasing number of inquiries and purchases of fireworks wrapped in red packages a colour symbolizing happiness and good luck.

On both sides of the door, large posters said "no fireworks" and "no smoking."

"Fireworks are available for the first time in town for more than a decade," Kang said optimistically. "People will buy them."

The store has 300 boxes of fireworks piled up and is open 24 hours at the moment. Residents are buying the fireworks and firecrackers for the upcoming Spring Festival, which falls on January 29.

Citywide, 2,116 registered stores and retailers 585 in the centre and 1,600 on the outskirts are trading fireworks in the Chinese capital. Sales of fireworks within the Fifth Ring Road started yesterday and will last until February 12, Xinhua reported.

Among the stores, 117 stores are permitted to operate 24 hours.

About 600,000 boxes of firecrackers worth more than 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million) have been distributed to registered stores.

To ensure the safety of transportation, trucks are equipped with global positioning system (GPS).

The Chinese capital instituted a ban in 1993 to reduce fireworks-related deaths and fires during the holiday season.

Last September the ban was lifted in response to residents' fondness for fireworks when celebrating Spring Festival.

Legend has it that a wolf-like creature called "Nian" would creep down to households at this time of year to devour people, but residents discovered that it could be scared away with explosions and the colour red. Since then, firecrackers have been an important part of Spring Festival tradition.

According to new rules, Beijing residents are allowed to set off fireworks within the Fifth Ring Road all day on Lunar New Year's Eve and Lunar New Year's day, and from 7 am to midnight every day from January 30 to February 12.

"Spring Festival without fireworks is not Spring Festival," said Sheng Hefei, who was buying fireworks in the store.

"It was fun and thrilling to light the firecrackers when I was little," he recalled. "The sound and view of fireworks make a real holiday."

However, not all residents welcome the return of firecrackers due to risk of injuries, pollution and noise.

"My child is scared of the sudden sound of firecrackers, and it is annoying to hear it all night long," complained Lu Jun, a local resident.

(China Daily 01/23/2006 page1)

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