Guangdong officials yesterday denied they had asked major hotels to photocopy guests' travel documents but admitted they approved of the idea. Police had nothing to do with the new practice which began in November in at least one major hotel in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province Public Security Bureau spokesman Yu Zhuowu said. This is despite claims by a Garden Hotel employee that it was the bureau's decision, to help it track down criminals. The employee said: 'They said we're the ones who want to do this, did they? Well, that makes it very difficult for us. We're just following orders from them.' The move has raised fears the information would be used by the mainland police to keep records of people considered troublemakers, including Hong Kong people who may have ties to political activists. In the past, hotels only copied down information from Hong Kong residents' 'Return Home Permits' but did not photocopy the documents, which have a picture attached to them. Hotel computers were linked to the bureau, so police officers could now screen hotel guests. Mr Yu said: 'It's normal to do this. The main purpose is to develop a better system of registering guests and to prevent criminal activity as well as to protect guests and their property. This can only be helpful to the public.' Asked whether guests could refuse to have their documents photocopied, another bureau spokesman, Li Shibin, said: 'If you don't allow the hotel to photocopy your document, that's like not registering.' Garden Hotel staff say they were forced to buy a $1,000 picture scanner from the Public Security Bureau as part of a trial of the scheme. Foreign passport holders would not be affected.