The outrage in China over U.S. hotel giant Marriott's gaffe in which it listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as independent countries, has spread to a clutch of other well-known global brands as angry internet users sought to "expose" foreign businesses for not respecting Chinese sovereignty.
Worldwide 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.
In a Mandarin-language questionnaire sent out to customers a few days ago, Marriott listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate countries.
Spanish fast fashion retailer Zara and American medical device maker Medtronic have been warned, also by Shanghai's CAC office, for their websites that had categorized Taiwan as an independent country, reports Sixth Tone.
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China, emboldened by its growing economic and geopolitical influence, is showing less tolerance of what it sees as violations of its political bottom line by foreign companies. "We apologize deeply for hurting the feelings of Chinese people". "We sincerely apologize for any actions that may have suggested otherwise".
"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. While Marriott has over 100 hotels in the country under different brands, it is also keen to profit from the swelling number of Chinese people travelling internationally.
Marriott's Chinese website now shows a message with an apology.
Hong Kong and Macau are former British and Portuguese colonies, respectively, that are now "special administrative regions" under China.
Beijing considers self-ruling Taiwan to be a breakaway province and Tibet is governed as an autonomous region.
Media in China has reported that some travelers have cancelled reservations with Marriott as a response to the errors.