Government probe of CCTV hotel fire

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China has called for a new investigation into the deadly fire that destroyed the hotel on the new compound at state broadcaster China Central Television.

The blaze that gutted the nearly completed 5 billion yuan ($730 million) Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Feb. 9 killed one firefighter and left a charred eyesore next to the broadcaster's new Rem Koolhass-designed headquarters, scheduled to open this year.

The fire "caused great damage, about which leading central government comrades were very concerned," said Huang Yi, spokesman for the State Administration of Work Safety.

The government investigation will build on an earlier probe by the Beijing city authority and deal with those responsible, Huang said in a statement posted to the administration's Web site.

Historically, investigations ordered from high up in China's communist government indicate a high level of political sensitivity and embarrassment at the loss of life or state resources.

A dozen people were arrested in March in connection with the fire set off by illegal fireworks on the roof of the 30-story hotel, a display paid for by CCTV to mark the end of the Lunar New Year festivities.

Among those arrested and facing up to seven years in prison were Xu Wei, the former head of CCTV's construction bureau, and eight employees of the Sanxiang fireworks company from south Hunan province.

News reports have alleged that Xu ordered that powerful pyrotechnics be used and ignored safety warnings. Business magazine Caijing earlier reported multiple conflicts of interest involving companies run by or related to Xu, including the building's construction firm.

Since apologizing for the disaster, CCTV has done little follow-up reporting, and employees say they have been told not to discuss it.

In an interview with the Xinhua news agency, Huang said the administration would set up a public work safety complaints hotline, investigate accidents and report progress to the public through the media as soon as possible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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