China shuts down Marriott website for listing Tibet as separate country

Jon Howard
January 14, 2018

Passengers check in at a counter of Delta Air Lines in Mexico City, Mexico, August 8, 2016.

The apparent intensification of efforts to police how foreign businesses refer to Chinese-claimed territories - even if only in pull-down menus - underscores just how sensitive the issue of sovereignty has become in a China that is increasingly emboldened on the worldwide stage.

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

China claims sovereignty over all four of territories, though Taiwan is self-ruled and has democratic elections.

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue.

The row with the hotel chain began on Tuesday when a Chinese-language questionnaire it emailed to its customers referred to Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as countries.

"Cyberspace is not an extralegal place and multinational corporations should abide by relevant laws and regulations", China's Shanghai Cyberspace Authority reportedly said. The CAAC met Delta executives on Friday and asked the Atlanta-based airline to apologise immediately.

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Marriott is in trouble again, this time, the South China Morning Post says, because one of its corporate Twitter accounts "liked" and shared a post congratulating the hotel group over listing Tibet and Hong Kong as independent countries.

For the record, Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions (SAR), while Tibet is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC or mainland China).

Medtronic issued an apology via social media, saying it had updated the website.

Delta was not immediately able to comment outside US office hours.

The move is part of a crackdown by Chinese authorities on foreign companies branding its territories as countries in their own right. A dropdown menu had the places listed under a button labelled "countries".

Despite a series of apologies and a freakish clarification that it does not support "separatism" Marriott has become the latest worldwide company to be punished by Beijing for apparently disrespecting China's sovereignty. Since her inauguration, Chinese visits to Taiwan have fallen significantly and more nations have severed diplomatic ties with the government in Taipei, in favor of Beijing.

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