China media: Firecracker debate

Papers say festive fireworks worsen pollution in Chinese cities Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some papers point out that fireworks and firecrackers worsen pollution in Chinese cities

Media are discussing whether to ban firecrackers to curb pollution or to continue the tradition to celebrate the Spring Festival.

The city of Beijing passed a strict anti-pollution law on Wednesday in an "all-out effort" to improve air quality this year, as the capital has been engulfed in thick smog several times in the past few months.

The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, will be celebrated from 31 January.

The regulation, which will take effect on 1 March, includes a ban on "construction of new oil refining, steel, cement and thermal power plants" and "limits car emissions" in an effort to curb pollution, the Global Times and China Daily report.

The Beijing Morning Post, however, notes that lighting firecrackers was not included in the regulation.

Citing the danger of setting off firecrackers, the Beijing Times says the custom originated from superstition and is not a suitable activity in a modern city.

According to an online poll conducted by the China Youth Daily, less than half of the 2,529 respondents said they will not light up firecrackers. The paper also recalls that people were unhappy with bans in the past and went ahead with lighting firecrackers.

To retain the age-old custom, the Science and Technology Daily recommends the use of environment-friendly firecrackers and fireworks which contain no sulphur, but these are costlier than the traditional ones.

In international news, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China had no vested interest in Syria and reiterated that it would not side with any party, while hoping the conflict comes to an end soon, reports the People's Daily.

Mr Wang met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and opposition leader Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian national coalition, separately at a peace conference in Davos, Geneva, on Wednesday.

The China Youth Daily says "the international community is pessimistic about the talks", but adds that the US and the West are pushing for their own "agenda" in the process.

'Fake journalists'

Turning to domestic news, a small number of media outlets in China have reported on the trial of Xu Zhiyong, a prominent human rights lawyer who campaigned against corruption.

Briefly mentioning that the trial had started, the Beijing News reports that Wang Gongquan, a "successful investor", has admitted his involvement in "disruption of public order" with Mr Xu and has "deeply reflected on his actions".

The Global Times points out that while Mr Xu's case has drawn "wide attention from the West", his work is "not widely known to the Chinese public" and the West is trying to assert pressure on the Chinese government.

Elsewhere, state media are giving prominent coverage to the first meeting of China's leading group tasked with reforming specific sectors of governance.

The reform group has Chinese President Xi Jinping as its leader and Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli from the Politburo Standing Committee as deputies.

The leading group is required to implement all reform measures put forward at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in November last year, a report says.

And finally, authorities in Beijing have cracked down on two "fake media groups" in a nationwide campaign against "fake media groups and fake journalists" that runs from January to March this year, reports the People's Daily.

The report says that the two groups operated in Beijing, with one registered in Hong Kong.

The paper says these "journalists" often contacted interviewees and asked for money, and one of them, who claimed to be a correspondent in Shanxi, was arrested because he was "collecting negative news", says the report.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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