China to block Web sites, snoop on hotel guests during Olympics

Amidst admissions by Olympics officials that China will block journalists' access to "sensitive Web sites" during the summer games in Beijing, a US senator is charging that authorities also plan to spy on foreign guests staying in Chinese hotels.

"We are going to do our best to facilitate the foreign media to do their reporting work through the Internet," said Sun Weide, a spokesperson for China's Olympics organizing group, the BOCOF, at a news conference in China.

But a spokesman for the International Olynpics Committee (IOC) said that sites "not considered games related" will be blocked to reporters, despite previous assurances of unrestricted Internet access.

"I regret that it now appears that the BOCOG has announced there will be limitations on Web site access during games time." said Kevan Gosper, the IOC's press chief.

Chinese leaders, who have reportedly cut a deal with some IOC members, seem particularly concerned that full Internet access by sports reporters might somehow jeopardize security in Tibet.

Meanwhile, at a news conference in Washington, DC, US Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) contended this week that several international hotel chains have received an order from China's Public Security Bureau requiring them to install government software that can spy on the Internet use of hotel guests.

"These hotels are justifiably outraged by this order, which puts them in the awkward position of having to craft pop-up messages explaining to their customers that their Web history, communications, searches, and key strokes are being spied on by the Chinese government," Brownback said at the news conference.

Ironically, Brownback has also voted in favor of US legislative measures such as the FISA Amendments Act, which allows the US government to tap into US telecommunications system to monitor international phone calls and e-mails without a specific warrant.

Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Statement Department produced a fact sheet cautioning travelers attending the Olympic games that "they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public or private locations" in China.

"All hotel rooms and offices are considered to be subject to on-site or remote technical monitoring at all times," according to the State Department.

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