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Officials jailed over fatal blaze

Seven officials involved in a deadly fire which killed 44 people in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, have been sentenced to jail terms, more than five months after their court case.

Yang Zhouwu, director of Tongle Police Station under Longgang District Public Security Bureau, received the most severe sentence of 13 years in jail, while the other six officials will serve terms ranging from one to 11 years, Longgang District People's Court in Shenzhen announced on Friday.

Yang took 300,000 yuan (US$43,873) in bribes from the "King of the Dancers" nightclub and allowed the club to operate without a license, the court said. He also helped cover up a group fighting crime in the club.

A fire broke out at the club about 11pm on September 20 last year when more than 300 people were watching a performance. Fireworks ignited flammable material in the ceiling, the inferno killing 44 and injuring 64 others.

An investigation showed the club started operating on September 8, 2007, without a business license or approval from local fire prevention authorities.

Chen Xuming, vice director of Longgang District Public Security Bureau, was also convicted of taking 600,000 yuan in bribes from the nightclub and turning a blind eye to drug dealing and prostitution inside, according to the court.

The other five officials - Liu Libiao from Tongle Police Station, Chen Feng from Longgang Firefighting Brigade, Huang Zhong and Wang Jin from Longgang culture inspection department, and Liu Xinhua from Longgang sub-district - were jailed for terms of one to six years for dereliction of duty.

Liu Xinhua got a two-year probation for surrendering to police. According to Longgang court, public security bureau vice director Chen has lodged an appeal and five others are considering appeals.

A dozen other people will be tried separately in relation to the fire.


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