Anti-WTO activists allege Hong Kong hotels reject room bookings

Activists alleged that some Hong Kong hotels were rejecting room bookings by World Trade Organization protesters who plan to demonstrate there during a major WTO meeting in December.

The Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO - which says it's helping about 3,000 overseas protesters find accommodation in the city - said it has heard of at least three cases in which hotels and travel agents declined to serve WTO protesters.

The group alleged that hotel associations and tourism officials were behind the decisions - allegations denied by the associations and officials.

Mabel Au, an international liaison officer with the anti-WTO group, said a guesthouse called her this week after she helped an overseas group inquire about room rates during the WTO's ministerial conference on Dec. 13-18.

She said the guesthouse - which she declined to name - asked her for details of the organization, and told her that it would not serve anti-WTO individuals.

"They said they did not want to antagonize a hotel association," Au said.

Elizabeth Tang, convener of the People's Alliance, told RTHK radio that two similar cases involved a hotel and a travel agent refusing to assist anti-WTO activists. She declined to identify those allegedly involved.

"We're very shocked because our colleagues have heard two hotels saying they have received instructions from the hotels association not to serve anyone coming to Hong Kong for WTO community activities during December," Tang told RTHK.

"A South Korean group has also said a travel agent refused to serve South Koreans during December on instruction from the Tourism Board," she added.

The Federation of Hotel Owners said in a statement that Tang's accusation was "groundless." The federation said it has never issued any guidelines for WTO room bookings to its members.

The statement added that some hotels on Hong Kong Island, where the WTO meeting is to be held, are fully booked, but rooms are still available in other districts.

Executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Clara Chong, also denied the claims. "We welcome all visitors to Hong Kong," she was quoted by the AP as saying.

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