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By Eric Baculinao

BEIJING — While birthday bashes traditionally roll around every year, one local government in China is trying to make older people celebrate just once a decade.

Tongjiang County in central Sichuan province has decreed that those over 70 should hold “birthday banquets” no more than once every 10 years, according to a statement on its website.

“The regulation is based on the county’s situation and reflects the local people’s wishes,” a county official told Beijing News. “Tongjiang is a poor county but people here needed to spend a lot of money on such social events, which is beyond their means.”

The measure unveiled on July 24 is part of an austerity program that restricts local feasting to three major events — weddings, funerals and birthdays.

The regulation also states that permits for birthday banquets must be obtained 15 days in advance, with those wanting to hold birthday parties supplying official IDs and household registration documents.

The new regulation set off a heated debate online, with opinion divided between critics and supporters.

“As a native of Tongjiang, I strongly support the government’s decision,” said a fan on China’s Twitter-like service, Weibo. “Whenever I come home for Spring Festival, I have to join all kinds of celebration parties and give out envelops with cash gifts, which is bad practice.”

"Lucky Housewife" disagreed, and called the local government “crazy.”

“What’s the issue with wealthy people spending their own money?” she asked.

Julia Zhou contributed.