Shanghai Recruits Expats to Help Enforce Firework Ban

By Bridget O'Donnell, February 4, 2017

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If you stayed in Shanghai for Chinese New Year, chances are you probably saw a lot of people walking around wearing orange (or sometimes red) vests.

That's not a coincidence. The people rocking those vests are part of a 300,000 person-strong army of volunteers who are helping the local government enforce a strict firework ban within the Outer Ring Road during Spring Festival. The vests have even been dubbed the "peace vests."

READ MORE: Shanghai Police Create Music Video for Fireworks Ban, and It's the Greatest

The peace vests debuted last year when Shanghai made its first major move to ban fireworks during the holiday. Vest wearers typically go around town looking out for illegal pyrotechnics, hanging up signs reminding residents of the ban and going door-to-door to let neighbors know about the regulations.

Orange vests

Jiading peace vest
A vested volunteer helps hang up a sign announcing the ban in Jiading district.

But if you think the orange vests are just for retired locals, think again. Shanghai Observer reports that a handful of foreigners have been recruited to help enforce the ban around town.

Expat firework ban
An expat tells her neighbor about the firework ban in this totally not at all posed photo in Zhangjiang High Technology Park, Pudong.

One Pakistani expat, who has lived in Shanghai for over a decade, told the Observer that he joined the volunteer squad last year. He's helped enforce the ban in Changning district for the past two holiday seasons.

He told the Observer he intially enjoyed the tradition when he first came to Shanghai with his father 13 years ago, but eventually found he had trouble sleeping with fireworks constantly going off in the middle of the night. The ensuing poor air quality from the smoke was also unbearable for him. When the ban was announced last year, he was eager to get involved.

"I think this is a great measure, both to allow everyone to enjoy the holiday quietly with their families, but but also to protect the environment," he said.

Expat firework ban
Laying down the law.

Laowai have been helping patrol the streets and notify friends and neighbors about the regulations. They've also translated regulation notices for apartment complexes into English and Japanese. Lin Yi, a Changning District police department spokesperson, said that he's seen volunteers from France, Argentina, the Netherlands, Italy and more.

Expat firework ban
Completely candid moment.

Chinese New Year lasts until February 11 this year, when the Lantern Festival caps off the 15-day holiday period. Typically, Lantern Festival is one of the loudest days for fireworks. But if Shanghai's dedicated volunteer squads are doing their jobs right, you probably won't even notice.

[Images via Shanghai Observer, Jiading Government, Weibo]

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