American officials dispatched to Hainan province spent much of yesterday in their hotel rooms, waiting for permission to meet the 24 detained crew members of the US spy plane for only the second time in five days. Six US officials from the Beijing Embassy and the Guangzhou Consulate have been holed up since Tuesday afternoon in the Hainan Mandarin Hotel in Haikou, north of Lingshui, where the EP-3 touched down after the collision. On Wednesday and again yesterday, the US officials in Haikou contacted the Hainan Foreign Affairs Office in the hope that a second meeting with the crew had been approved by Beijing. Hainan officials did not respond to their inquiries. 'We are working very hard for access [to the crew] here in Haikou,' US military attache Brigadier-General Neal Sealock said yesterday morning. US officials in Haikou are only responsible for visiting the crew and doing as much as possible to ensure their safety and comfort, not negotiating for their release. At their first meeting, US officials took a digital photo of the crew. The photo was sent to Washington to reassure their families that they were in good health. 'The issue [of their release] is being worked out at the highest levels . . . We are trying not to derail anything that is going on,' Brigadier-General Sealock said. US officials in Haikou yesterday also took delivery of blank passports that the crew will need to leave China. But one US official emphasised that this step was taken in order to be ready for any eventuality, and was not an indication that the release of the crew was imminent. Hainan Foreign Affairs officials also transported another shipment of personal items to the detained air crew yesterday. Security staff at the Hainan Mandarin Hotel have also been warned that a group of at least 50 Hainan University students had wanted to stage a protest outside the hotel, a hotel manager said yesterday. The students were prevented from travelling there by police. Students at Hainan University have been hanging posters and slogans critical of the US.