Fireworks in Beijing

Here is the official statement as published in Beijing News report on February 3, 2006:

从除夕至今,全市火警数量比去年同期略有增加,因燃放烟花引起的火警略有赠加,但没有因燃放烟花爆竹致死的市民,也没有一个因燃放烟花导致摘眼球的病例。 昨晚,在市消防局会议室举行的新闻发布会现场,北京市政府副秘书长、市烟花办主任李伟就今年除夕至正月十五,全市安全及禁改限进行了阶断性发布。

[in translation]  "From Chinese New Year's Eve up to now, the total number of fires is slightly more than in the same time period last year, as the number of fires caused by fireworks has increased slightly.  There were no civilian deaths as a result of fireworks, nor were there any damaged eyes as a result of fireworks."  Last evening, at the press conference in the Fire Department's conference room, the Beijing City Government deputy secretary general and the City Fireworks Office director Li Wei made an interim report about the safety and limited relaxation on the firework ban between Chinese New Year's Eve and the Fifthteenth Day of the first month of the new year.

So what?  Well, if you say "So what?," then you need a lesson about how to read news in China (come to think of it, the reading strategy has universal applications).  The following is the translation of a Massage Milk blog post.

Journalistic Guidance

What is journalistic guidance?  That is when everybody knows that the wind is blowing towards the west, but you insist on having some seemingly factual evidence to prove that the wind is actually blowing the east.  Then you persuade people to accept your viewpoint.  If you can do that, you have successfully guided people.

For example, the traffic in Beijing is congested and the citizens complain about it frequently.  So you say that traffic congestion is the indicator of economic prosperity.  The traffic in Taklamakan desert is very sparse, but economic development is impossible there.  Therefore, places with serious traffic congestion are definitely economically flourishing, abundant in goods and supplies and their people must be prosperous and living in harmony.  Therefore, Beijing must actively promote projects that cause traffic congestion in order to deonstrate that the city is economically flourishing.  This is known as proper guidance.  You begin to think: Who wants to go and live in the Taklamakan desert?  Even birds are unable to travel across it.

During the past few days, the Beijing media have carried a lot of news about fireworks.  Bascially, it is said that the fireworks have not led to any fire disasters, no one got injured in the eyes, and there was neither air nor environmental pollution.  In years bygone, if my memory serves me correctly, I can clearly remember that there were numerous negative stories about fireworks during the spring festival.  I don't know if any reporters went to Beijing's Tongren Hospital (note: an eye-specialty hospital) on the night of New Year's Eve this time to stake the place out.  In years past, the newspapers always reported from Tongren Hospital about the number of people with eye injuries caused by firecrackers.  The reports also carried some shocking descriptions to remind people to be careful when they set off firecrackers, as well as hinting that this sort of activity should not be promoted.

But this year, Beijing rescinded the ban.  Actually, if you want to rescind the ban, you can just go ahead.  After all, it is not exactly a glorious thing to rescind a ban.  But we must serve the function of providing proper journalistic guidance.  For example, there are posters saying "Setting off firecrackers is your power, setting them of in accordance with the law is your obligation" all over the streets.  Frankly speaking, I am a citizen but they have never told me what kinds of power I have.  But on this matter of setting off firecrackers, they have to highlight my power.  You see, when you do this type of thing, we can protect you.  I have lived for 38 years, and this is the first time that I feel that I have some power -- if it is only the power of setting off firecrackers.

Also, it is strange, but I wonder if the various department levels of the Beijing Municipal Government are illiterate about the law because they were not able to distinguish between power and right.  What is power?  The ability to forcefully coerce in politics and the ability to govern in your area of responsibility.  Thus, you can say that the police have the power to arrest people.  Rights are always counterposed against obligations.  If there is an obligation behind, then there should be a right up front.  But to elevate the trivial matter of setting off firecrackers to the height of 'power,' I cannot tell if they are illiterate about the law or else they must be doing this deliberately.  If they don't even have this commonsense knowledge, then one can imagine where they put the rights of the citizens.  But if we think about this, we may be understand then that they have never valued citizen rights.  Therefore, when they wanted to emphasize citizen rights, they could not distinguish between "power" and "right."  (Sigh), they really make people worry.

Furthermore, I am curious about why there were no accidents when the Beijing people set off fireworks this year?  Nobody is talking about environmental pollution.  No fire disasters.  This is really a harmonious scoeity.  No matter what, they are always right whether they issue a ban or rescind a ban.

I remember that a reporter once asked Winston Churchill: "What are the requirements for a politician?"  Churchill responded: "A politician must be able to predict certain things that will happen tomorrow, next month, next year and further in the future."  The reporter asked further: "What if the predictions are wrong?"  Churchill replied: "Then you just make up another reason."

Frankly speaking, the so-called journalististic guidance is just "making up another reason."