Shanghai Fire Anniversary

November 19, 2011 Updated: November 21, 2011
Scaffold covers an apartment building as people mourn the victims of the Shanghai fire, which destroyed the 28-story high-rise building, on Nov. 15, 2011 in Shanghai, China. The fire killed 58 people on Nov. 15, 2010. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

On Nov. 15 of last year a fire raged through a Shanghai high-rise apartment building for teachers, causing 58 deaths and 71 injuries. Despite interference by police, survivors and victim’s family members held a memorial at the site, expressing their grief and hope that authorities might reveal the true facts surrounding the fire.

Shanghai resident, Mr. Chang Xiaong, whose home in the Jing’an District is a mere 55 yards from the building that caught fire, said that on the day of the anniversary, beginning at 6 a.m., about 30 police, and many plainclothes police, started blocking all entries to the building. But many people still managed to break through the blockade, and the memorial service lasted until midnight.

People brought flowers, eulogized the dead, held a candle light vigil and a traditional Chinese memorial service.

Mr. Wang, who lost two family members in the fire, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that they first held a memorial at his house in the morning and then stayed at the site of the event until midnight.

“We wanted the truth about the fire to be revealed, but so far that has not happened,” he said.

Some of the issues that are unresolved, according to Wang, are whether construction materials purchased by the government were up to standard, whether the fire protection was up to code, how authorities conducted the rescue, why there are still unknown victims.

“All these serious questions have been covered up with no answers forthcoming,” Wang said.

More than 20 victims’ family members have filed lawsuits against the Jing’an district government in an effort to get authorities to take responsibility, they said.

Some of them said they are still not allowed to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones. And some of the survivors said they are still living in hotels, unable to resume a normal life.

Wang Hong, a representative for one victim’s family, told Voice of Germany that compensation issues have still not been settled because the agency in charge simply disappeared, and none of the 12 support and rescue agencies named by the State Council have contacted them.

Furthermore, Wang said, the Central Propaganda Bureau ordered all mainland media before the anniversary not to report on the event.

“We expressed our anger in our memorial statements. I feel hopeless, furious and sad,” Wang said.

There was indeed no mention regarding the Shanghai fire memorial by any major mainland media on major search engines and social blog sites, such as Sina, Tencent, Sohu, or Baidu. The hot search term list also did not bring up anything related to the Shanghai fire.

Shanghai resident Wang told RFA that even their Weibo social networking blog site was censored during the past few days.

“We can’t post anything, the Central Propaganda Bureau also issued a statement on the 12th prohibiting any mention of the Shanghai fire. We posted many articles on the 14th, but all were deleted,” he said.

The official regime statement said that an illegal repair worker caused the fire. Many officials were charged and jailed for 5 to 16 years for misuse of power and corruption.

Renowned artist Ai Weiwei initiated a private investigation into the fire. Soon after his art studio in Shanghai was demolished.

Read the original Chinese article