HONG KONG A Chinese city has beaten the Grinch at his own game, banning Christmas trees from shopping malls, restaurants and other public places because they pose a fire hazard, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
Chen Ying, deputy mayor of Zhuhai, a city of 1.3 million people in southern China, said restaurants, malls, grocery stores and other entertainment venues had to remove trees and other "flammable decorations" immediately.
"Those that fail to rectify the situation will be subject to legal measures like suspension or closure," the Southern Metropolis Daily quoted Chen on its Web site (www.nddaily.com) as saying on Wednesday.
The crackdown on Christmas trees was part of a three-month campaign to boost fire-prevention standards that started this week in Zhuhai, directly across from the Chinese gambling haven of Macau.
The Zhuhai ban came the same day that President Hu Jintao "reached out" to religious believers in China where commercial Christmas trappings have become increasingly ostentatious in recent years.
The manager of a Zhuhai karaoke bar ordered a Christmas tree last week and was not happy with the new regulation.
"I paid 3,000 yuan (about $400), so who can I sue for damages now?" the newspaper quoted him as saying.