Frosty reception for China hotel with polar bears on show
A video shows the bears -- a threatened species -- photographed by crowds of guests under harsh warm lights, in a space consisting of fake rocks and icicles, and a white painted floor.
Animal rights organisations reacted with outrage, urging customers to stay away from establishments profiting "from animals' misery".
"Polar bears belong in the Arctic, not in zoos or glass boxes in aquariums – and certainly not in hotels," said PETA Asia's Vice President Jason Baker.
Harbin is famous for its ice-carving festival, and the hotel resembles a giant igloo, with its roof topped by artificial ice. But some Chinese social media users expressed unease at the theme being taken to this extreme.
"Gaps in China's wildlife protection law allows businesses to exploit animals without any concern for their welfare," a spokesman for China Animal Protection Network, who declined to be named, told AFP.
Chinese authorities recently changed the law to ban the consumption of wildlife for food, after speculation over the origins of the coronavirus nudged investigators towards a Wuhan market selling animals.
But the use of parts of endangered species in traditional medicine remains rampant, and Chinese circuses and zoos are often criticised for poor standards in animal housing and care.