CCTV Official Arrested for Costly Beijing Fire

February 15, 2009 5:33 pm Last Updated: February 15, 2009 7:46 pm
A fireworks show on the evening of Feb. 9 resulted in a major fire at CCTV's new site. (Getty Images)
A fireworks show on the evening of Feb. 9 resulted in a major fire at CCTV's new site. (Getty Images)

On Feb. 9, a fire broke out at Beijing’s new China Central Television (CCTV) site, resulting in the death of a 30-year-old fire fighter, injury to many others and an estimated loss of more than three billion Yuan (US $441.18 million).

The Beijing Fire Department stated that the fire was caused by an illegal fireworks presentation. At present, Beijing police have detained 12 people including a CCTV official, three members from the CCTV staff and eight staff members from the participating firework company.

An anonymous source from CCTV revealed that a CCTV department sent out a notice announcing a “Lantern Festival Fireworks Party” at the new CCTV site. Several pictures and videos were made of the pyrotechnic display as it erupted.

The costly damage, injuries and fatality caused by the event received little mention in China’s newspapers. All media outlets were ordered to reprint the understated version of the story made by the Xinhua News Agency. The Beijing Internet Management News Service sent out a Level I notice at 11:15p.m. on the evening of the event demanding that all the websites “only run the story broadcast from the Xinhua News Agency.” They forbid pictures and video of the event to be shown, and prevented any in depth analysis.

They also discouraged blog forums from discussing the story. Soon after receiving this notice, all major Chinese websites removed their detailed reports and videos of the event. While the story initially received in depth coverage and was featured prominently on websites such as Sina, Tencent and Netease, these reports were removed soon after the media requirements were sent out. Within hours these websites replaced their detailed reports with the unremarkable version of the story, comments and reviews related this story are also not allowed.