Report: China shutters one in three Internet cafes

A nationwide safety crackdown on Internet cafes in China has resulted in the temporary or permanent closure of one in three of them, a government official said last week, according to a report from the official Xinhua News Agency.

Of the roughly 45,000 establishments that were checked in the aftermath of a deadly blaze in a Beijing Internet cafe that killed 25 people, more than 3,300 were closed and almost 12,000 were temporarily shut for what Xinhua called “shape-up.” The figures were delivered as part of a report on workplace safety during the National People’s Congress last week by Li Rongrong, who heads the State Economic and Trade Commission, said Xinhua.

The Beijing fire ripped through an Internet cafe in the city’s Haidian district, home to Beijing University and Tsinghua University, in the early hours of June 16 this year. Escape for many people was impossible because the cafe’s only door was locked at the time and bars over the windows blocked that route of escape, according to reports at the time.

The most immediate effect of the blaze was a mayoral order for all of the capital’s estimated 2,400 Internet cafes to close until they had been inspected. Nationwide inspections followed soon after.

The blaze was said to have been started by two teens who were angry at being refused admission. It was the latest in a string of deadly fires in China in recent years that have killed hundreds of people unable to escape burning buildings. One of the deadliest, a fire at a disco in Luoyang in 2000, killed more than 300 people.

With crackdowns like the one on Internet cafes, the government is hoping to reduce the number of such deaths. The report issued last week said the death toll from accidental fires was down 5.3 per cent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2002, according to Xinhua.

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