China hits back at US senator's spying claims

China brushed off accusations that authorities are forcing foreign hotel chains to install Internet eavesdropping devices ahead of the Olympics.

China's Foreign Ministry brushed off but did not specifically deny accusations that Chinese authorities are forcing foreign hotel chains operating here to install Internet eavesdropping devices ahead of the Olympics.

"Those accusations are unfair," the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao as saying at the ministry's biweekly press conference Thursday. "Privacy is respected and guaranteed in China. China's security measures in hotels and other public places are not beyond the internationally, generally used measures," he said.

On Tuesday, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback accused China again of ordering foreign hoteliers to permit the Public Security Bureau, China's police, to deploy Internet monitoring hardware and software. "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," he said in a statement. "This means journalists, athletes' families and other visitors will be subjected to invasive intelligence gathering by the Chinese Public Security Bureau."

Brownback did not identify any of the hotel chains purported to have received the order. The senator's office did not respond to a telephone request for a copy of translated documents he claimed proved the order's existence. He first made the accusations in early May.

Major hotel chains Starwood -- which operates hotel brands including Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin and Four Points brands -- and Wyndham Worldwide -- which operates brands including Days Inn and Super 8 -- did not respond to requests for comment on the senator's claims.

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