By Sue-Lin Wong
SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - A hotel in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Friday denied a report that it would charge U.S. guests an extra 25 percent amid an escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing.
However, three staff members who declined to be identified told Reuters that a discriminatory rate policy had indeed been posted at the hotel as of Thursday but had since been removed.
The Global Times, a hawkish tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, said in a report dated Thursday that the Modern Classic Hotel Group had put up a notice at its hotel informing guests of the extra charge.
It cited a spokesperson at the hotel, surnamed Yang, saying that the hotel had posted the notice last Friday.
"We have no idea where this news came from. My phone has been ringing off the hook all day today," Bai Lulu, a front office manager, told Reuters at the hotel.
"We treat all our guests equally. We wouldn’t charge one type of guest more than another type of guest," Bai said, adding that the hotel did not currently have any American guests.
However, another staff member, declining to be identified, said there had indeed been notices saying Americans would be charged extra.
"There were ads up yesterday in the restaurant stating Americans would be charged 25 percent extra. We took photos."
The Global Times had cited a spokesperson for the hotel surnamed Yang as saying their boss was "really angry about the endless tariffs the U.S. planned to impose on China".
There has been little public evidence to date of anti-American activity in China as the trade dispute has grown increasingly bitter.
The United States and China each imposed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of the other's goods on July 6. This week, Washington published a new set of proposed tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China, further escalating the conflict.
"Chinese public sentiment towards the U.S. is becoming more sensitive" after Washington's latest tariff threats, the Global Times said in its report.
Several sources have told Reuters that China issued strict guidelines to its media barring personal attacks on U.S. President Donald Trump and limiting open commentary, an apparent attempt to avoid unintentional escalation.
Authorities were also censoring potentially sensitive items on social media such as Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, where trade-related items have been mostly kept off the list of top trending topics.
Official Chinese statements this week have taken a sharper tone, accusing the United States of "bullying" and starting the trade war.
(Additional reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)