China’s New Year revelers overturn police car to defy fireworks ban

New Year’s revelers clashed with police in central China late Monday, overturning a squad car during celebrations that flouted a year-long ban on firecrackers.

Videos widely shared on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, showed a largely maskless crowd of hundreds on the streets in rare scenes on Jan. 2 – a public holiday – three years of disheartenment due to the COVID-19 pandemic became. The social media app’s censors then removed the videos.

On Twitter, which has become a digital archive of footage deleted from the Chinese internet, one Video showed the crowd of youths swarming the police car that witnesses said had attempted to interfere with an unauthorized fireworks celebration. Pyrotechnics could be seen in the background.

Chinese new year
People enjoy the Lunar New Year holiday at an ancient town on January 2, 2023 in Shanghai, China. During celebrations that flouted a year-long ban on firecrackers, revelers clashed with police and overturned a squad car in central China late Monday.
Getty Images/Hugo Hu

In another clipa young man was seen stirring up the excited New Year’s Eve crowd standing on the vehicle that was later turned around on his roof.

Authorities in Luyi County in Henan province – about 200 kilometers southeast of “iPhone city” Zhengzhou – said they had arrested six of eight people suspected of “starting quarrels and provoking trouble,” a oft-cited crime of public order, according to a statement published online on Tuesday.

“A few people intentionally vandalized a police car on duty that was parked on the side of the road, attracting a crowd of onlookers. It created chaos at the crime scene and had a negative impact,” police said. Order has been restored and no injuries have been reported, the statement added.

Authorities said the incident happened around 11pm local time Monday on one of the county’s main thoroughfares next to a public square. They asked the remaining suspects to turn themselves in and promised leniency.

Luyi police could not be reached for comment.

The police statement was not related to the province-wide ban on firecrackers and fireworks that has been in place since July 2021. The ban, issued on grounds of public safety and environmental protection, followed central government guidance, which has similarly banned or restricted the use of pyrotechnics in hundreds of cities since 2018.

Beijing last year extended a city-wide fireworks ban in downtown, allowing it to record the cleanest air since it began monitoring dangerous PM2.5 particles in 2013.

China traditionally marks the Lunar New Year and other holidays with loud firecrackers to relieve bad luck for families and businesses.

Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai organized official demonstrations to herald the year 2023. Across the country, however, members of the public celebrated China’s first post-COVID New Year by shooting fireworks from the backs of mopeds and through car windows, images shared on social media showed.

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Rick Schindler

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