Neighbours claim area has long been a haven for unlicensed venues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 September, 2008, 12:00am

Residents of Shenzhen's Longgang district, where 43 people died in the nightclub fire on Saturday, say the area has been a haven for unlicensed entertainment venues for years.

Longgang is home to hundreds of bars, karaoke parlours and nightclubs - legal and illegal - as well as thousands of factories and hundreds of thousands of young migrant workers.

Before Saturday, countless numbers of young people would head to the area for fun, but last night many of them said they were scared to go there again because of the fire at the Wuwang (Dance King) club.

Longgang authorities confirmed the club was unlicensed.

It had been open for more than a year, but no officials had inspected the site until Saturday's deadly fire.

Several popular entertainment venues in the area, each of which usually attract hundreds of people every night, closed yesterday as authorities launched a 100-day clampdown on unlicensed entertainment venues.

At least four nightclubs - the Coco Slow Dance Disco, the Rock Star, the Night Cat and the Night Boy Bar - stopped operations from Sunday, according to the Southern Metropolis News.

The report said at least two of them were unlicensed.

Four other karaoke nightclubs - Jiulongcheng, Happy World, Royale and Jialedi - were still running last night but did not post their licences as required and refused to show them to reporters.

A Jialedi employee said the venue had opened for business about two months ago and had good safety facilities but, when asked to produce its licence, managers claimed it was open only for private parties and not to the public.

District officials said Jialedi was licensed to run only a food business and did not have authorisation for a disco or KTV services.

The manager of a store near the Wuwang said the unlicensed clubs and bars probably had a good relationship with officials.

He said it was an open secret that many young people used drugs in the clubs and there were fights outside, but the police never came or carried out inspections.

'Wang Jing [the Wuwang's boss] was very powerful in the entertainment community in Longgang,' the store manager, who declined to be named, said.

'The Dance King was allowed to stay open in April when the Shenzhen government launched a citywide inspection campaign after a fatal fire at a factory in Nanshan district.

'Many bars ... closed at that time. But that club was not affected at all.'