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China replacing CCTV Chief after Fireworks Accident

China replacing CCTV Chief after Fireworks Accident

China's government said it is replacing the head of China Central Television, three months after a fire destroyed part of CCTV's glitzy new headquarters in Beijing and caused a major embarrassment for the huge state broadcaster. In a brief report, state-run Xinhua news agency said 61-year-old Zhao Huayong is being replaced because he had reached retirement age. China's usual retirement age is 60. The report didn't mention the February fire. It said Mr. Zhao is being succeeded by top propaganda official Jiao Li, vice minister of the publicity department of the Communist Party's Central Committee.

Mr. Jiao was previously a propaganda director for the northeastern province of Liaoning, which borders North Korea. He was one of the principals involved in helping launch China's first publicly traded publishing group, the Shanghai-listed Liaoning Publishing Group, in 2007.

He will take the helm at a difficult time for the state broadcaster. The CCTV fire on Feb. 9 initiated a storm of questioning about the institution's management. The fire was sparked by a display of illegal, industry-grade fireworks to mark the end of the Lunar New Year holiday near the nearly completed headquarters, which didn't yet have fire-prevention systems installed.

The fire gutted a boot-shaped tower, designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Schereen, right next to the colossal main headquarters building. One firefighter died.

The destroyed building was intended to be a revenue generator for CCTV, with the top floors leased to luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental and the lower floors housing television studios intended both for rental and for CCTV's own use.

CCTV said in a statement that it didn't authorize the fireworks show, but this claim was later undercut by a report on the state prosecutor's Web site saying the display -- estimated to cost $146,000 -- was the third in a series of annual Lunar New Year displays held on the building site. Authorities detained a dozen people.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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