China shuts website over Tibet mistake

China has ordered an investigation after the Marriott hotel chain reportedly listed Tibet as a "country" in an e-mail questionnaire survey.

Shanghai's cyberspace authority late on 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.

Despite a series of apologies and a weird clarification that it does not support "separatism" Marriott has become the latest global company to be punished by Beijing for apparently disrespecting China's sovereignty.

On the Chinese version of Delta's official website, it listed Chinese territories, including Tibet and Taiwan, as "countries" in a drop-down menu.

The same regulator also accused fashion brand Zara and medical device maker of listing Taiwan as a country on its respective websites and called for an apology.

China's civil aviation regulator reached out to the U.S. airline, instructing them to issue an apology and rectify the situation with immediate effect.

China is stepping up its policing of worldwide companies such as Inditex SA-owned Zara and Delta Air Lines Inc. and demanding they respect the government's position on long-standing territorial disputes from Taiwan to Tibet.

Mr Sorenson has previously described China as his firm's biggest market. "This is the minimum requirement of any company going to another country to carry out business and investment", he said.

Marriott apologized repeatedly but then compounded its error.

Authorities shut down the mobile phone app in Chinese of Marriot as well, as part of the punishment for its survey that was released in Mandarin.

Marriott now has more than 100 properties in China. "We apologize deeply for hurting the feelings of Chinese people".

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economics professor, said foreign companies needed to be aware of Chinese people's deep-rooted sensibilities.

Former colonies of the United Kingdom and Portugal respectively, Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of China.

Authorities in Beijing began an investigation yesterday into the language used by the American multinational company in a questionnaire sent to customers by email. "Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite", said President and CEO Arne Sorenson.

  • Eleanor Harrison