Two teenage boys started the fire that killed 24 people at an Internet cafe in a Beijing university district because the staff would not let them surf there, the municipal government official said on Wednesday.
"I burned the Lanjisu with gasoline because they would not let us play there," Beijing television showed one of the boys, with dyed blond hair and a black "Z" on the back of his head, telling police interrogators.
It did not identify the boy, but the city government said in a statement a 13-year-old surnamed Zhang and a 14-year-old surnamed Song used gasoline to ignite the deadly blaze at the illegal Lanjisu Web bar.
The statement said the boys set the Internet cafe ablaze after a dispute with workers there two weeks ago. Police had suspected arson after finding traces of gasoline.
It was Beijing's worst fire in 50 years.
Zhang and Song, caught by police Tuesday, were living alone in a home owned by Song's family and often played truant from the Beijing high school they attended, it said. The city statement said the parents of both boys were divorced.
Monday, the Beijing government shut down all Internet bars in the city for safety inspection-- of which only 200 of some 2,400 were properly licensed, according to Xinhua.
(People's Daily June 20, 2002)