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bug-wary U.S. reviews sale of Waldorf Astoria to the Chinese
LAKSHMAN MENON  London | 18th Oct 2014

Waldorf Astoria hotel

The US government is reviewing the $2 billion sale of New York's iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel to a Chinese corporation amid fears that Beijing will spy on the US ambassador to the United Nations whose home it is. Earlier this month, the Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group bought the hotel from Hilton Worldwide. Under the terms of the sale, Hilton will continue to run the hotel, but the new owners will be allowed to conduct a "a major renovation" of the property, sparking fears that the Chinese will bug the building, which also hosts the US President and hundreds of American diplomats during the annual UN General Assembly. Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, said, "The State Department takes seriously the security of its personnel, their work spaces and official residences." The State Department's latest travel advisory for China warns, "Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely." It cautions that American travellers "should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests." The State Department has leased a residence for the US ambassador to the UN on the hotel's 42nd floor for over 50 years and the Waldorf Astoria has played a unique role in Sino-US diplomatic relations. Henry Kissinger hosted a lavish dinner for Deng Xiaoping at the hotel in 1974. The banquet must have stamped itself on Deng's memory; the Anbang group is now run by Deng's grandson-in-law.

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