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State shoots down plan for longer May holiday

CHINA'S central government has squelched the recent rush of regional governments proposing a return to the seven-day "golden week" for the May Day holiday and insisted that all localities stick to its three-day rule.

The General Office of the State Council issued a notice yesterday to local governments to "strictly follow" the holiday plan it published earlier. All changes to the plan were banned.

China introduced three week-long holidays for the Spring Festival, May Day and National Day holidays in 2000 to boost tourism and retail spending.

But last year, the government cut the seven-day holiday for May Day to three days to ease congestion during the long holidays and added more three-day breaks in recognition of the traditional Qingming, Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals.

The General Office of the State Council earlier published schedules for this year's New Year, Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, May Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day following last year's guidelines.

But with local economies slowing as a result of the global financial crisis, regional governments have been proposing a return of the longer holiday to generate financial activity.

On Tuesday, Guangdong Province led the nation in formerly reintroducing the week-long holiday for May Day. Other cities and provinces also were reported to be working on proposals to restore the seven-day break.

But some economists were as skeptical as the central government.

Zhang Guangrui, head of the tourism research center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said local governments should not take only the economy into account when planning holidays.

"We can't adopt the longer holidays when we get into a financial crisis and abandon them when we are out," said Huo Deming, a scholar at Peking University.

The governments of Shanghai and Beijing said they have no plans for longer holidays and will follow the central government's order.

There was no immediate reaction from the other local governments.


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