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The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta
"There has been a big debate within the Chinese community about whether to celebrate openly"
 real 28k

Saturday, 5 February, 2000, 16:42 GMT
Dawn of the dragon

toucing noses A Beijing man rubs noses with a dragon for luck

Chinese people across the world are celebrating the start of the lunar new year with fireworks, dragon dances and parades.

Saturday is the first day of the Dragon Year - one of the luckiest in the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

Indonesia Indonesia: Different climate for celebrations this year
In Indonesia, the ethnic-Chinese minority held new year celebrations in public for the first time since they were blamed for an abortive coup attempt in 1965.

In the Chinese district of northern Jakarta, traditional musicians performed in front of an audience of several thousand - something which correspondents say would have been impossible even a year ago.

Dragon facts
The dragon is the luckiest sign to be born under
Dragons are supposed to be fun-loving and full of life, but can be eccentric and are susceptible to flattery
Dragons traditionally make good priests, artists or politicians
They are said to be blessed with virtue, riches, harmony and longevity
Crowds of ethnic Chinese flocked to temples in Jakarta with incense and flowers. Dragon dances and opera performances were also held in other parts of the city. "People are not afraid anymore. They are happy," said one man.

Indonesia's Chinese minority makes up only about 5% of the 210 million population.

But their business success has generated resentment among many indigenous Indonesians. In recent years, their houses and businesses have been wrecked and burned.

Falungong crackdown

The festivities in China were marred as the authorities moved in on a lunar new year protest staged by the Falungong movement in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

Elsewhere in mainland China, after welcoming the Lunar New Year with fireworks, many spent Saturday at home or visiting close relatives, as is the tradition.

lion dancer A lion dancer performs at the Tian Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur
Beijing's normally bustling streets were empty and quiet.

Hong Kong celebrated with a parade that included vintage Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, and a mainland Chinese float - the first one to join the annual display since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

More than 20,000 people waved while the parade passed through the central business district.

The crowd cheered the Chinese float, bedecked with streamers bearing the Chinese characters of luck and abundance.

The parade also included a police band playing bagpipes, an Indian wedding ceremonial float, fashion models in dresses with beaded dragon patterns, martial arts practitioners, and 10 sets of dragon dancers - one more than 300-meters long.

Incense Incense is burned as an offering
This Lunar New Year was particularly important for a Singapore family with the surname Dragon, whose four members were born in various years of the dragon of the 12-year cycle.

Alison Dragon, 23, who married last year, told the Straits Times: "My mum is hoping that I can have a baby this year so that one more member of the family will be a true dragon."

Vietnamese welcomed the holiday, known locally as Tet, mostly by gathering with their families.

Fireworks on Friday night lit up the skies over Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang, a noisy contrast to the quiet expected to blanket the country for the rest of the holiday.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Huge exodus for new year
04 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
In Pictures: Preparing for the dragon year
04 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
New year appeal for quake survivors
28 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan takes fizz out of fireworks
05 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
New Year protest in Tiananmen Square

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