A dozen years after Beijing enacted a ban on firecrackers in the city proper, local residents finally had a raucous Spring Festival full of jubilant explosions and bursts of light.
Many average Beijingers welcomed the return of firecrackers, but others were nervous about it. Approximately 500,000 people across the city, including police officers, fire fighters, medical workers and community volunteers, were on high alert throughout the week. They were prepared to cope with any emergencies that might arise.
This turned out to be an over reaction, much to the surprise of everyone, including the municipal government. By the last day of the celebrations, there had been no reports of major fires or deaths resulting from firecrackers. There were not any reports of eye excisions, either. These surgical operations are so common in firecracker-related injuries that they have become a major official measurement for firecracker safety in Beijing.
Calling that an "initial achievement," the safety-minded municipal government expressed gratitude to Beijingers for respecting the rules.
They deserve thanks for more than that, however. Perhaps more importantly, they presented convincing evidence that firecrackers are not an evil that has to be prohibited.
In fact, after the relative tranquillity of the first few no-firecracker celebrations, the ban fell apart. Despite the theoretical authority of the ban, as well as the strong police force dispatched to patrol the streets, it was simply impossible to catch and punish all violators.
The ban was unpopular from the beginning because it deprived residents of a key part of their Lunar New Year happiness. Even police officers became tired of the typically futile game of hide-and-seek, when most of them would otherwise be spending time with family.
It was actually their inability to enforce the ban that prompted the authorities to rethink its legitimacy.
Beijing lawmakers deserve applause for coming to terms with the ineffectiveness of a categorical ban. That knowledge turned every player in the game from a loser to a winner.
Residents' self-discipline when using firecrackers counted for a lot in what has so far been a satisfactory citywide security record. But it would be unfair to ignore the authorities' smart control programme.
We would have seen quite a different scenario if their efforts had stopped at telling people when and where firecrackers were not allowed.
Strict licences for firecracker retailers and detailed technical standards for firecrackers sold on the local market showed a high degree of sophistication.
Though some have described the return of firecrackers in Beijing as a triumph of tradition over law, we instead see it as a victory of reason over a poorly conceived law. The ban and its ultimate removal show that a law is not as strong as it appears when it lacks popular endorsement.
A big problem with Beijing's previous ban on firecrackers was that there was little meaningful consultation with the public before it was put into effect. The new scheme, however, was the result of extensive public discourse throughout the city.
Beijing's lawmakers must have learnt a lot from their rather embarrassing encounter with firecrackers, which we hope includes appreciation of the value of democracy in lawmaking and, equally if not more importantly, the vital significance of management.
An explosion at a firecracker storehouse on the first day of the Lunar New Year in Linzhou, in Central China's Henan Province, killed 36 people and injured 48. This again showed the potential dangers of using firecrackers. The investigation concluded that the incident was the result of poor management, however.
Beijing has managed to avoid firecracker-related deaths and fatal injuries, and effective management is the reason for this solid safety record.