China suspends Marriott website over geography gaffe

Alicia Cross
January 14, 2018

A day later, the cyberspace administration of Shanghai ordered Marriott to shut down its Chinese website and the mobile app for a week.

The CEO of the hotel group, Arne Sorenson on Thursday issued a full apology saying the company supports and respects Chinese sovereignty as well as its territorial integrity.

The shots showed that Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were offered as possible answers to the question, "Which country are you now living in?"

The Shanghai office of the Cyberspace Administration of China reprimanded Spanish fast fashion retailer Zara and American medical device maker Medtronic for suggesting that Taiwan is an independent country, according to a statement published Friday on the regulator's WeChat account.

Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, and goes under various names in global organizations, has been self-ruled since 1949 in defiance of the Communist regime in the PRC.

Zara and Medtronic are not the only two companies that have been chastised for disrespecting China's territorial sovereignty.

"Political stance is the most important part of the brand awareness when foreign companies do businesses here", said Zhu Guangyu, a 44-year-old consumer from Shanghai.

Marriott Draws Fire Over Geography Slip-Up

Though Marriott made several posts on Weibo to apologize, it is not clear whether Marriott actively monitors mentions on Weibo or whether they might have been able to get ahead of the negative backlash in real-time.

"Hotel companies must immediately review all information on their corporate websites and apps, and strictly abide by Chinese laws and regulations to firmly stop such incidents from happening again", it said.

Officials said Marriott had "seriously violated national laws and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people".

While formally the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, remains a single country as each considers the other as "renegade provinces", Beijing has repeatedly called it "the most sensitive issue" in its relationships with the United States.

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

Marriott has now begun an investigation. We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologize.

Both Macau and Hong Kong are special administrative regions of China, said Beijing.

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