Shanghai probes Marriott hotels over geography on customer questionnaire

01_10_China_Map

The Marriott hotel chain has been forced to apologise to the Chinese government for referring to Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as countries.

Delta Air Lines Inc., the Zara apparel chain and Irish medical-equipment maker Medtronic Plc all came under fire. For all intents and purposes, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are "countries" in the sense that they have separate visa and entry requirements.

Hong Kong and Macau are former British and Portuguese colonies, respectively, that are now "special administrative regions" under China. China has punished Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Brad Pitt for appearing in films which may have promoted the notion of a separate Tibet.

During a press conference on Thursday, Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it is not only an "objective fact" but also an "international consensus" that these territories are part of China. Taiwan, which was ruled by the Nationalist Party for decades after it was defeated by the Communist Party in the civil war, is considered a "renegade province".

The CAC met with Marriott representatives this week and ordered its website and app to be taken down for a week, as punishment.

Marriott apologized repeatedly but then compounded its error.


Shanghai authorities said in November they had fined a local advertising agency one million yuan ($150,000) over a Chinese map that appeared in an advertisement it produced, saying the map was inaccurate and "damaged the country's dignity".

"Marriott International respects Chinese sovereignty and its territorial integrity.We sincerely apologize for any actions that led to misunderstanding on the aforementioned stance", the company said in a statement on its official Weibo account. "Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite", said Sorenson.

Delta's apology was similarly groveling. "For now, we have suspended the questionnaires and [will] fix the options at once", the hotel giant said in a statement on Sina Weibo, as cited by the Global Times. The regulator ordered Marriott's website and booking applications to close for a week.

"In China, at the request of the government, we have taken down our Chinese websites and apps to conduct a full review and audit".

Marriott's troubles should also drive home for foreign businesses operating in China or hoping to cater to Chinese tourists that understanding how Beijing understands history is key to not running afoul of the Chinese government. In recent weeks, Taiwan has reported increased incursions into its airspace by military planes from China.

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