Beijing police said yesterday they had detained a senior staff member at China’s state television station and 11 other people over a fireworks show that set part of its new headquarters ablaze.
The 12 are suspected of having caused Monday night’s blaze that consumed an almost-completed building that was to house the Mandarin Oriental hotel, and which led to the death of one firefighter, a police statement said.
Among those detained was Xu Wei (徐威), 50, who was in charge of construction at China Central Television’s (CCTV) new site.
“Twelve people including CCTV construction office director Xu Wei have been detained by Beijing police on suspicion of creating a disturbance with dangerous materials,” the statement faxed to reporters said.
Citing police, Xinhua news agency reported separately that three other CCTV employees and eight people the station hired to set off the fireworks were also under detention, without providing further details.
The eight fireworks operators, from a fireworks company based in Hunan Province, fled the scene once the blaze began, Xinhua said.
They were caught by police in the city of Langfang, about two hours’ drive south of Beijing.
Fire authorities said previously the blaze was caused by fireworks that CCTV had illegally set off at its new headquarters to celebrate the end of Lunar New Year festivities.
CCTV used fireworks far more powerful than the public were allowed to buy, and ignored police orders for them not to be set off.
The fire engulfed a 30-story cultural center that was to house the Mandarin Oriental, as well as a television studio and an IT center.
Chinese bloggers have defied censorship efforts and ridiculed CCTV over the debacle, with some celebrating the fire as a deserved punishment for the station’s propaganda mission.