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In an apparent mistranslation of the concept of hospitality, Chinese authorities have ordered foreign-owned hotels to install Internet monitoring equipment to spy on hotel guests during the Olympic Games, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, charged on Tuesday.
"I am very disappointed that the Chinese government will not follow through on its promise to the International Olympic Committee to maintain an environment free of government censorship during the Games," Brownback said in a statement. "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. This means journalists, athletes' families and other visitors will be subjected to invasive intelligence gathering by the Chinese Public Security Bureau."
According to a news release issued by the senator's office, Chinese authorities have ordered foreign-owned hotels to install a software program and a hardware device to help the Public Security Bureau spy on hotel guests. Several hotel chains have reportedly confirmed the existence of this order and provided documentation to Brownback.
A spokesperson for Brownback was not immediately available.
News service Reuters quoted one of the documents thus: "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 that the hotels have asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
Chinese authorities have been accused of similar behavior before. In May, The Associated Press reported that Chinese officials may have covertly copied the contents of a U.S. government laptop computer that was left unattended during a visit by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.
Given that the U.S. National Security Agency has been monitoring Internet and telephone communications since warrantless wiretapping was authorized in 2001, there seems to be more resignation than outrage among potential visitors to China.
As one person commenting on Reuters' coverage remarked, "Bad enough I have the U.S. government snooping on my Internet and telephone activity. To heck with going to China to have them do it to me too. Think I'll save my money and blood pressure and just stay home and watch them on the TV."