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American protester paints Beijing hotel rooms

Aug. 07, 2008, 9:32 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) An American pastor checked into upscale hotels in the Olympics host city this week, filmed himself painting two of his rooms with slogans like "Beijing 2008 Our world Our nightmare" and then disappeared. Without paying.

Eddie Romero's unusual protest, now making the rounds on YouTube, shows foreigners can still sneak through the tight security measures China imposed to keep potential troublemakers away from the games, which start Friday.

The net tightened even more Thursday.

A Hong Kong lawmaker said immigration officials deported three U.S.-based Chinese democracy activists after denying them entry to the territory, which is the site of Olympic equestrian events. A second protest by three Americans in Tiananmen Square, including anti-abortion activist the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, was stopped by security agents who led them away.

Locals who threaten to take some of the shine off the games get tougher treatment.

At least two women who have protested being evicted from their homes near Tiananmen were rounded up late Wednesday and early Thursday and taken to a police station, one of them told The Associated Press.

Romero's friends said the preacher was in hiding, but planned to surrender to Chinese authorities as soon as the Olympics end Aug. 24.

On Tuesday, in a sometimes unsteady hand, the California-based pastor splashed the walls of his two hotel rooms with demands for the release of five Chinese activists. He slashed pillows and staged mock killings with stuffed people propped on the bed, red paint spattered like blood on the headboard.

Romero, who appears to be alone, tells the camera he doesn't want to disrupt the games. He talks about religious freedom for groups that remain highly sensitive with the Chinese government - Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

"Freedom's a scary thing for them, and by them I mean the Chinese communists," he says.

Before starting work on the second hotel room, he prays.

The four-star Novotel and the Traders Hotel, both part of international chains, said the case was in the hands of police. A Beijing police spokeswoman said she knew nothing of it.

"We really don't understand why he did this," said Lanny Liu, communications manager at Traders. Romero apparently slipped out of room 417 before dawn Wednesday, leaving damage that Liu said cost nearly $1,500 to clean up. "We just want to find the person and ask him to pay the bill."

At the Novotel, room 1602 already was restored Thursday afternoon, with machines drying the carpet and a smell of cleaning fluid in the air.


Associated Press writer Audra Ang contributed to this report.