China jails 23 over disco fire
22 August, 2001
Court in China has jailed 23 people in connection with
a fire in a nightclub in the city of Luoyang last December
which killed 309 people.
State media said the longest sentence - 13 years - was
given to a welder who was charged with starting the fire
and then fleeing without raising the alarm.
Police, safety and government officials were among others
sentenced to between three and nine years.
But relatives of the victims had previously expressed dissatisfaction
with the trial.
The blaze was China's worst fire disaster for years. Many
of the dead were young revellers attending a Christmas night
Investigations revealed that the fire had been started
by maintenance men doing welding work in the basement of
One of them, Wang Chengtai, ran away without raising the
alarm when the flames got out of control.
Relatives had to identify victims from photographs
But investigators also found that the building had no sprinkler
system, fire exits had been blocked by illegal construction
and safety reports had been falsified.
Nine officials from the local police, construction, commerce
and fire departments were jailed on charges of abetting
the building's operators in breaking safety regulations.
Two Taiwanese investors in the building were also sentenced.
But a group of more than 30 relatives of those who died
have filed a lawsuit calling for more senior officials to
be put on trial. They have also demanded more compensation.
Smoke prevented fire-fighters from entering the dance hall
Immediately after the verdicts were announced, one relative
expressed dissatisfaction at the sentences, seen as relatively
light in a country which has executed more than a thousand
people over the past few months for crimes including robbery
After the fire, angry relatives took the streets of Luoyang
to protest at official incompetence.
Some family members say they have been watched by police
since and told not to talk to the media.
The official report on the verdict stressed that the Chinese
authorities have treated the investigation with the utmost
seriously and are stepping up safety precautions across
the country in the light of this and a series of other recent
to Club Fires