Guangzhou attacks spark warning

British diplomats in Guangzhou have issued a travel warning to foreigners after attacks on two Britons.

Businessmen, officials and holidaymakers have been told that armed robbery gangs are targeting expatriates in hotel and bar areas popular with foreigners.

Security has been stepped up in at-risk areas after British diplomats held talks with Public Security Bureau chiefs and government officials who are anxious to keep the city's international image clean.

The warning comes in the wake of an unidentified British Consulate official suffering knife wounds after being accosted and, in a separate incident, a UK businessman being attacked by an armed gang.

According to consular sources, both incidents happened near Guangzhou's China Hotel, which is popular with foreign businessmen.

It is understood both attacks took place after dark and were within the past month.

Issued by the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong after being cleared by officials in Guangzhou, the warning says: 'The British Consulate-General has received reports of recent violent assaults against foreigners visiting Guangzhou.

'The primary motive appears to be robbery and most attacks have taken place around large hotels used by expatriate tourists, businessmen and other visitors.' The warning specifically urges people to take particular care in areas where there are bars and hotels used by foreigners.

'Visiting such areas after dark, particularly unaccompanied, should be avoided,' it adds.

A consular source said: 'No one was seriously injured but we believe it makes sense to remind people to be aware.' A security official at the China Hotel would only say last night: 'I don't know of anything recently.'