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China spying on Olympics hotel guests: U.S. senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has installed Internet-spying equipment in all the major hotel chains serving the 2008 Summer Olympics, a U.S. senator charged on Tuesday.

Workers walk past the National Olympic Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, at the Olympic Green in Beijing July 29, 2008. Haze that covered Beijing for days cleared on Tuesday as rain fell 10 days before the Olympics open. REUTERS/Jason Lee

“The Chinese government has put in place a system to spy on and gather information about every guest at hotels where Olympic visitors are staying,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.

The conservative Republican from Kansas, citing hotel documents he received, added that journalists, athletes’ families and others attending the Olympics next month “will be subjected to invasive intelligence-gathering” by China’s Public Security Bureau. He said the agency will be monitoring Internet communications at the hotels.

The U.S. senator made a similar charge a few months ago but said that since then, hotels have come forward with detailed information on the monitoring systems that have been required by Beijing.

Brownback refused to identify the hotels, but said “several international hotel chains have confirmed the existence of this order.”

Spokesmen at the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not available for comment.

Brownback, who staged an unsuccessful campaign for president this year, released documents that he said were notices to the hotels on Internet security. The authenticity of the documents could not be checked and portions were redacted.

One document said: “In order to ensure the smooth opening of Olympic in Beijing and the Expo in Shanghai in 2010, safeguard the security of Internet network and the information thereon in the hotels ... it is required that your company install and run the Security Management System.”

Brownback said the hotels “have invested millions of dollars in their Chinese properties” and “could face severe retaliation from the Chinese government” if they refused to comply.

The senator called on China to reverse its policy, but said the hotels are advising guests that “your communications and Web site activity are not private” and that e-mails and Web sites being visited are accessible to local law enforcement.

More than two years ago, a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a hearing to probe U.S. firms’ compliance with China’s Internet censorship demands.

Brownback has been a critic of China on human rights issues and has been among U.S. lawmakers calling on President George W. Bush to boycott the Olympics opening ceremonies, largely to highlight allegations of Beijing’s supply of arms to Sudan in return for oil. Those weapons have been used to carry out genocide in Darfur, according to China critics.

China has called human rights allegations nothing more than “noise pollution” and is hoping the Olympic Games will boost its international image.

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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