Smoked bacon ban leads to online ridicule in China

Smoked bacon ban leads to online ridicule in China
Heavy smoke is produced in Dazhou, Sichuan province, on Thursday as residents prepare bacon for Spring Festival.

Fu Xiuqin struggles to find sawdust and cypress twigs in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, so that she can smoke bacon in the runup to Spring Festival.

"Smoked bacon has been part of Spring Festival since I was a child," said the 74-year-old, whose hometown is Guangyuan. "But it is really hard to find sawdust and cypress twigs and a place to smoke bacon."

Many of her young neighbours in a residential part of downtown Chengdu fretted as she smoked bacon because they found the smoke unpleasant. But none tried to stop her, as it is a time-honoured habit for people in Sichuan to eat bacon during Spring Festival. The festival, which falls on Feb 19 this year.

However, residents of Dazhou, the easternmost city in Sichuan, and the neighbouring city of Bazhong are not so lucky. Worsening air pollution has prompted the governments of both cities to ban bacon smoking, and officials are being sent to urban areas to enforce the order.

The Dazhou municipal government has been ridiculed online because an employee in the city's environmental protection bureau justified the ban by saying the smoking of bacon was the major cause of smog.

Internet users have dismissed the claim, pointing out that bacon smoking was being carried out several hundred years before smog appeared.

Others accused the Dazhou government of shifting the blame for its failure to deal with air pollution.

The online mockery of the Dazhou government is backed up by an investigation by the Bayu NGO Development Center, an environmental protection group in Chongqing, which borders Dazhou.

Zhao Ting, who works at the centre, said researchers from the centre spent a week from Jan 9 visiting residential quarters and farm produce markets in six districts where people smoke bacon.

"They had instruments that could measure PM2.5, and found that smoking bacon produced little or no PM2.5," Zhao said. "An individual site where bacon was smoked cannot affect air 50 meters away."

Mou Biao, an official at Dazhou's urban management bureau, said that many residents had complained about the unpleasant smell produced in public spaces by bacon smoking, and they asked the bureau to ban it.

However, Zheng Jian, the head of the development centre, said: "If a custom has existed for a long time and creates problems, the government has to tell the public about the problems instead of banning it suddenly. Otherwise, it might find itself in an awkward situation."

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