Beijing issued its first ever red smog alert, the most serious warning level, on Monday afternoon. However, the heavy air pollution did not deter the city’s “square dancing aunties”, middle-aged and elderly women who dance in groups on public squares and in parks.

Dancing aunties by a Beijing road. Photo: Netease News.

Covered in coats, boots, scarves and face masks, about two dozen “aunties” performed their moves by a road in Beijing on Monday evening, Netease News reported.

Dancing aunties by a Beijing road. Photo: Netease News.

Tourists in the Chinese capital did not seem to have their mood dampened by the smog either, as some were snapped posing on Tiananmen Square looking up the sky in admiration.

Tourists posing on Tiananmen Square on Tuesday in Beijing. Photo: China News Network.

Beijing residents had seen only a few days of blue sky when the red warning came, just a week after a second-level orange alert was lifted. When the Beijing Youth Daily shared a picture of “square dancing aunties” in a park last week, startled netizens said it looked like a scene from horror film Resident Evil.

“Square dancing aunties” from last week look like monsters in “Resident Evil”, netizens say. Photo: China Youth Daily.

This time, the smog is forecast to last until Thursday (December 10) when the alert is expected to be lifted.

Under the red smog warning, primary and middle schools will suspend classes. Employers are advised to arrange flexible working plans. And factories will be temporarily closed or have their production restricted.

Street sweepers have to work despite the pollution. Photo: Netease News.

Meanwhile, a special traffic control system based on licence plate numbers will be implemented. Cars with licence plates ending with an odd number will only be allowed on the roads on dates ending with an odd number, and vice versa.

Beijing has issued eight air pollution alerts this year, including two orange alerts in October and earlier this month.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.