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September 1, 2011

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Jail terms for fatal high-rise fire upheld

THE appeals of eight people who were sentenced to jail for their part in last year's deadly blaze that killed 58 people in a downtown high-rise residential building were rejected yesterday by the Shanghai Higher People's Court.

The eight included Zhang Quan, an ex-official with the Jing'an District Construction and Transport Commission, who was sentenced to jail for 13 1/2 years, and Ma Yibang, then vice general-manager of Shanghai Jiayi, who was dealt a 15 1/2 year sentence. They were convicted for their culpability in the fire and for accepting bribes.

The other 18 offenders accepted their verdicts from the Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court, with 15 getting jail time.

In the courtroom, Zhang denied that he took 720,000 yuan (US$112,853) in bribes, as the lower court ruled. Ma argued that his responsibility was not serious enough to warrant the jail term. Ma was also found to have accepted bribes of more than 940,000 yuan.

In the earlier trial, Gao Weizhong, the former head of the construction commission, received the longest sentence - 16 years for abuse of power. He did not appeal.

Some 28 officials and company workers also received Party or administrative penalties. Zhang Renliang, former director of the Jing'an District, and Xu Sunqing, a former vice director of the district, were removed from their posts.

Two unlicensed welders were blamed for causing the fire on the afternoon of November 15, 2010, as stray sparks from their tools ignited materials on scaffolding around the building.


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