China blocks Marriott for listing Tibet and Taiwan as countries

Marriott Draws Fire Over Geography Slip-Up

Cyberspace regulators in China issued sharp criticism to Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) and other companies today for referring to Taiwan as an independent country on their websites, classifying it as "illegal content".

It added that on Thursday, Shanghai's cyberspace administration ordered Marriott to shut down its Chinese website and app for a week.

Global companies operating in China should respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, state broadcaster CCTV said, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang's comments at a regular briefing.

State-owned Air China was also found to have listed Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries on its Hong Kong website.

Medtronic had also put "Republic of China (Taiwan)" on one of its websites, the office said in a WeChat post, giving both companies until 6 pm local time to apologize.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the mainland after a 1949 civil war, but Beijing continues to claim sovereignty over the island.

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Zara and Medtronic are not the only two companies that have been chastised for disrespecting China's territorial sovereignty. The warnings signal that the country may deploy more sticks against foreign companies that can't risk losing business in the world's second-biggest economy. While Marriot now has more than 100 hotels under its different brands scattered across the country, it is keen as well to profit from swelling numbers of people from China travelling overseas.

Hong Kong and Macau, which were once British and Portuguese colonies, respectively, were handed over to the Chinese government in the late 1990s, becoming special administrative regions with certain degrees of autonomy. In China, at the request of the Government, we have taken down our Chinese websites and apps to conduct a full review and audit.

The original post, by Weibo user Zhongjusaodi, had called the survey "disgusting" and questioned the intelligence of Marriott's Greater China employees.

Chinese authorities say Marriott's wording violated cybersecurity and advertising laws.

Media in China has reported that some travelers have cancelled reservations with Marriott as a response to the errors. "We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologize", Sorenson said in a statement.

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