Sichuan anger over street parties
More than 180,000 residents of Chongqing - a municipality that sits geographically within Sichuan province - crowded the city's commercial area to celebrate Christmas Eve, angering some people who thought the festivities showed disrespect to the victims of the May 12 earthquake.
The Jiefangbei Central Shopping Square, a popular commercial district and city landmark, attracted 183,000 revellers to count down to Christmas Day. This was a mainland record for the biggest Christmas countdown party, according to Shanghai's Great World DSJJNS, a mainland organisation similar to Guinness World Records.
Police said at least 400,000 people in Chongqing attended countdown parties on Wednesday, the Chongqing Evening News reported.
In central Chongqing, shops and restaurants were festooned with decorations. Special traffic control measures were in force.
The celebrations were criticised by many netizens, who said the festivities disgraced the memory of those killed or left missing in the earthquake, which left 88,000 people missing or dead.
'The Chongqing Christmas revelry is a shame,' said a mainland netizen posting on several popular online chat rooms and sparking much debate. 'The revellers in the urban city close to the quake zone have apparently forgotten the disaster and its victims. I despise the Christmas carnival in Chongqing.'
Another Web user wrote: 'I am a Chongqing citizen and feel ashamed by [the revellers]. So many quake-hit people are still homeless and struggling against the cold winter. The party should at least have included a ceremony in memory of the people who were victims of the quake.'