More than 10,000 fireworks manufacturers and workers threatened last month to march on their local city Government to protest against a reported order to permanently ban fireworks production in Jiangxi province. The crisis was only resolved after the authorities denied they had wanted to shut down the fireworks industry, an official magazine revealed. The Guangzhou-based Nanfeng Chuang reported on the tense situation in Wanzai county in Jiangxi in its latest issue. The magazine said the situation remained critical because the Government was bringing in a temporary production ban next month, when the National People's Congress has its annual meeting in Beijing. In a meeting with the protesters on January 13, the new Communist Party secretary of Jiangxi's Wanzai county, Guo An, had to deny he had ordered the industry to be shut down before the protesters agreed to retreat, the report said. The dramatic turn of events followed two fatal explosions in March and December last year in Wanzai county in which at least 76 people were killed. After the December accident, the authorities shut down the fireworks industry for 10 days to carry out safety checks. According to the Nanfeng Chuang, the atmosphere in Wanzai county became tense in the first week of January after Xinhua reported the provincial Government had decided to phase out fireworks production within two years. The situation worsened when the manufacturers and workers heard reports that Mr Guo wanted to shut down the entire fireworks industry - involving about 400 factories and plants - in Wanzai within a year. Because the factories had been shut down for checks by mid-January many factories in Wanzai were desperate to fulfil their Lunar New Year orders. The manufacturers and workers - numbering more than 10,000 - decided to organise a march on January 14 to Yichun, which administers Wanzai county, to protest. Mr Guo heard about the protest plan and called a meeting a day earlier to persuade the manufacturers and workers to abort their demonstration. The crowds criticised Mr Guo for shutting down the industry and claimed it would turn Wanzai into a time bomb because factories had stored more than 800 tonnes of explosives in their warehouses. They said the stocks would be unstable because of moisture and they would be unlikely to clear them at reasonable prices. They said fireworks production was Wanzai's 'heritage' and demanded a referendum to decide its fate. The report said Mr Guo denied he had wanted to shut down the fireworks industry and blamed it on 'rumour-mongers'. Wanzai sought directions from Yichun which approved a two-week resumption of production but insisted on a suspension when the NPC meets - a traditionally politically sensitive period in the country. The magazine also interviewed an official of the Publicity Department of Jiangxi Provincial Government who denied the Government had ever wanted to phase out production.