China's revised 2014 holiday schedule sparks public ire

SHANGHAI Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:56am EST

People release sky lanterns ahead of the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival in Pingxi, New Taipei city, northern Taiwan, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

People release sky lanterns ahead of the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival in Pingxi, New Taipei city, northern Taiwan, February 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has designated the eve of Lunar New Year as a working day in 2014, triggering an outcry over the disruption of plans to celebrate the year's most important traditional holiday.

Each year in mid-December, the government announces public holidays for the following year.

They often follow a similar pattern, but next year's schedule, announced late on Wednesday, has surprised and angered many, as the Spring Festival holiday is when millions travel home to be reunited with families, many for the only time in the year.

"Many people need to go home and prepare for the Chinese New Year," said Ran Ying, a 26-year-old office worker in Shanghai's financial district of Lujiazui. "It's a mistake to swap the holiday plan between the eve and the seventh day of New Year."

The holiday plan approved by China's cabinet, or State Council, designates February 6 as a public holiday for the 7-day-long Spring Festival break, instead of January 30, the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year.

An overwhelming number of users also expressed anger on China's popular Sina Weibo microblogging site.

"I want to ask the people who made the plan: are you able to go home right after work?" wrote one Weibo user. "What about the people who work outside their hometown? How can they hurry home and have the family reunion dinner?"

Even the influential Global Times tabloid criticized the new schedule, saying those who lived away from their hometowns needed time to return, and calling for more public holidays.

"It is the desire of the urban Chinese society to increase public holidays as many people are feeling tired and care more about rest than money," it said in an editorial.

The new schedule will do nothing to avert the chaos that results when the entire nation goes on holiday at the same time. Riot police had to be deployed to control crowds at some popular tourist sites over the week-long National Day break in October.

Cai Jiming, a professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University who studies national holiday policy, told Xinhua news agency the only way to deal with the problem would be to spread the burden by enforcing paid vacations - which few Chinese get.

The government also said only January 1 would be a public holiday next year, as opposed to the usual three days for the Western New Year holiday.

"It takes so long for the holiday plan to come out ... and it turns out that we only have a one-day holiday for New Year," wrote a Weibo user. "I have already bought my plane tickets."

(Reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Clarence Fernandez)

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