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Thursday, 28 December, 2000, 10:00 GMT
Protest follows Chinese fire
Family members queue up to identify their loved ones in Luoyang
Relatives are restricted from paying their last respects
Angry relatives of the victims of Monday's fire at a disco in the Chinese city of Luoyang have protested at the authorities handling of the tragedy.

The victims are not criminals so why is the government not allowing us to mourn properly

Relative of victim
Several hundred protesters marched through the city towards government offices.

Some waved banners that read, "Justice For The Dead" and "One family, one delegate just won't do".

Relatives were protesting an order that restricts family members from paying their last respects to the dead. There was also anger that the building was known to be unsafe but little was done about it.

The march follows the announcement by the authorities that four welders had confessed to accidentally starting the fire.

The fire gutted a building where partygoers were packed into an unlicensed disco on the top floor, killing 309 people.

Order on mourning

An official order on mourning has banned family members from attending cremations and allows only one relative of each victim to pay their final respects to loved ones.

Luoyang relative
A woman discovers her son is among the dead
Luoyang's crematorium on Thursday was surrounded by five rows of policemen who prevented relatives entering the area.

"This is not right," one angry at the Luoyang Hotel told Agence France Press news agency at the start of the march.

"The victims are not criminals so why is the government not allowing us to mourn properly?" Many are very angry over this."

There was also public outrage that the authorities appeared to have done little to act on the revelation three years ago that the building - which houses a shopping centre - was declared one of the 40 most dangerous buildings in Henan province.

Stray sparks

Luoyang relatives
Relatives have been identifying the dead with photographs

Investigators have said that stray sparks from welding set alight to cloth and furniture stored in the basement.

One welder had been operating equipment in violation of regulations.

Xinhua news agency reported that they four failed to put out the fire and fled the scene without reporting it.

As well as the four workmen arrested, eight other people have been detained who were present at the time of the blaze and "provided false testimony".

Police and relatives outside the crematorium
Rows of police restrict relatives entering the crematorium
The tragedy was China's worst since December 1994, when 324 people, mostly children, were killed in a concert hall in Xinjiang.

Poor fire safety standards have been blamed for fires that cause thousands of deaths every year.

BBC Beijing correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says that building safety standards in China are seldom properly enforced.

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See also:

27 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese disco fire suspects 'confess'
26 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Safety checks after China disco fire
26 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hundreds die in China disco blaze
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
29 Mar 00 | Far East
Fire kills 74 in Chinese cinema
26 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
China: 20 die in hotel fire
26 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly fires
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