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Beijing cyber cafe fire kills 24

Authorities clamp down on Net

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The mayor of Beijing has ordered the closure of all Internet cafes in the city following a fire in which 24 people were killed and 13 injured.

The blaze broke out on Sunday morning at the Lanjisu Cyber Cafe in the outskirts of the city.

Witnesses said that there were bars on the windows and the only door into the cyber cafe was locked.

Most of those at the cyber cafe were students studying at local universities.

The fire drew a swift and heavy-handed response from the authorities with critics claiming that they have used the blaze as an excuse to clamp-down on cyber cafes and people's access to the Internet.

State media reported that Mayor Liu Qi ordered a three-month long anti-fire inspection of all cyber cafes in the city.

Operation licences are not being granted to any new Internet cafes and those that already possess certificates to operate are being forced to re-register, the mayor said

Only around 200 cyber cafes in Beijing are licensed. The rest - around 2,200 including the Lanjisu Cyber Café - operate illegally. ®

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