Exits locked 'to protect guests'
Emergency exits are locked as a matter of course in cheap hotels in central Shenzhen to protect guests from burglars and street hooligans, according to hotel staff.
A visit to three hotels near Wednesday's killer blaze at the Duan Xi Hotel found the emergency exits would have been death traps rather than passages to safety in case of a fire.
At Shenzhen Marine Hotel on Heping Road, one block from the Duan Xi, fire exit signs were clearly posted on each floor of the six-storey building, with fire extinguishers and sand buckets available.
But on at least the top three floors, the exits the signs pointed to were locked.
When an employee was asked why the gates were locked she said it was for the security of the guests because burglars could get in.
'The management is only doing it for the guests because they are afraid of burglars,' she said.
'We don't want the guests to complain that hotel staff are thieves when things are stolen.' She said most fire exits in public places in Shenzhen were locked.
At the nearby Shentie Hotel, three of the exits were locked. Staff were also unaware that the Shenzhen Government had given all hoteliers a seven-day grace period to open their fire exits or face heavy penalties.
In Nanyang Hotel, near the Marine Hotel, there were two fire exits. One door led to the lobby and out to the street, the other opened on to a long, dark corridor, with no indication of where it led.
A hotel guest from Hong Kong was not surprised or worried. 'It's not Hong Kong. You must adjust to the way things are here,' he said.