China shuts Marriott website over Tibet error, scolds other firms

Shanghai (AFP) – Authorities in China have shut down Marriott’s local website for a week and scolded Delta, Zara and a US medical firm Friday for listing Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate countries.

Alongside Marriott, the Spanish clothing giant Zara, Delta Air Lines and Medtronic — a medical device company — were all called out by Chinese authorities for “illegal” classification of regions that Beijing claims under its authority.

Shanghai’s cyberspace authority late Thursday ordered Marriott to close its Chinese website and app for a week and completely clear out illegal and irregular information, according to a government statement.

The same authority said in a statement Friday that the websites for Zara and Medtronic had included Taiwan and “Republic of China (Taiwan)”, respectively, in their country lists.

The companies were urged to “immediately alter their illegal content and publish apologies.”

Separately, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) noted in an online statement that Tibet and Taiwan were listed as countries on Delta’s official website.

The airline has been instructed to “immediately rectify the situation” and “publicly apologise”, CAAC said.

Marriott’s Chinese website now shows a message with an apology.

“We never support any separatist organisation that damages China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it says.

“We apologise profoundly for any behaviour that will cause misunderstanding about the above stance.”

– ‘Respect sovereignty’ –

In a customer questionnaire in Mandarin, Marriott asked members of the chain’s customer rewards programme to list their country of residence, giving Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as possible options.

It triggered an uproar on Chinese social media as Tibet is an “autonomous region” firmly under Chinese control since the 1950s.

Hong Kong and Macau are former British and Portuguese colonies, respectively, that are now “special administrative regions” of China.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since…

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