Chinese TV employee among 12 held over fire: police

Beijing police said Thursday 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 CCTV tower (L) and the fire-damaged Mandarin Oriental hotel in Beijing February 10, 2009.

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, 50, who was is 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 AFP 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.

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-storey cultural centre that was to house the Mandarin Oriental, as well as a television studio and an IT centre.

The building was next to the CCTV tower, which is due to open in October and remained untouched.

The fire has hit a nerve with some in China as CCTV is one of the Communist Party's main propaganda arms, with the incident symbolising how the powerful often live by a different set of rules to others in Chinese society.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has repeatedly said that corruption is one of the greatest threats to the legitimacy of the Communist Party.

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.

Source: AFP

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