Chinese officials dined at high-end Bund restaurant before stampede

Chinese officials dined at high-end Bund restaurant before stampede
A man prays for people killed in a New Year's Eve crush at the site of the stampede in Shanghai on January 3, 2015.

Officials of Huangpu district government in Shanghai had dinner at a high-end restaurant before joining in a New Year's Eve laser display at a site near the deadly stampede in the district's Bund area, according to a report on Monday by Caixin New Century Weekly. The restaurant specializes in Japanese food and has only four rooms. Customers cannot order dishes but choose instead from a set menu that has an average price per person ranging from 1,888 yuan (S$406) to 3,888 yuan.

A staff member with the restaurant said all the rooms were booked long before New Year's Eve but didn't say whether officials were served that night.

The Shanghai press office said it didn't participate in the investigation and did not know whether the district officials dined at the restaurant before the stampede occurred.

The restaurant is close to Shanghai's Waitanyuan (The Bund Origin), which hosted a 3-D laser performance to celebrate the new year.

The annual show, initiated in 2011, has traditionally been held in the Bund area and attracted 300,000 people last year.

For this year's event, the location was changed because of crowd-control issues, and tickets were limited to 2,000 visitors, most of whom were staff members with the district government.

The change of location also meant fewer police officers were on duty to maintain order in the Bund area on New Year's Eve.

Despite the change of location, swarms of people gathered in the adjacent Chenyi Square to celebrate the countdown on New Year's Eve.

Around midnight, as revelers crowded into the square, 36 people were killed and 49 others injured in the stampede.

After the tragedy, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged a speedy and thorough investigation into the cause of the stampede.

Police in Shanghai have opened an investigation, and the city has suspended permits for almost all large-scale activities.

Although police have not disclosed any details, they have dismissed reports that a rush to pick up coupons thrown from a bar overlooking the Bund was the cause of the stampede

According to the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission, as of Monday morning, 10 people injured in the stampede were still hospitalized. Two were in serious condition, and one was in critical condition.

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