China suspends Marriott website over geography gaffe
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China suspends Marriott website over geography gaffe

The hotel chain had mailed a survey questionnaire to its Chinese members that listed Tibet, Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2018 17:47 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Marriott,China,Tibet
This photo taken on January 11, 2018 shows a Marriott logo in Hangzhou in China's Zhejiang province.(AFP)

China has suspended Marriott’s Chinese website and mobile app for a week after it emerged that the hotel chain mailed a survey questionnaire to members that listed Tibet, Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries.

The hotel could also be fined for breaking Chinese laws.

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is one of two autonomous provinces in China, while Hong Kong and Macau are designated as special administrative regions. China claims Taiwan – an independent, democratically-run island – as a renegade region to be reunified with the mainland in the not-too-distant future.

Further, one of the hotel’s official Twitter accounts was found to have “liked” a Tibetan separatist group.

Marriott issued a swift apology to the Chinese government and said that the company doesn’t support separatist movements.

“Marriott International respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite,” the company’s president and CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

“We don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups. We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologise,” the statement said.

Earlier, a report on the official Xinhua news agency said that Marriott sent out a questionnaire to its Chinese members on Tuesday with the question “Which country are you from?”, listing Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as options. Screenshots of the questionnaire went viral on Weibo and stirred a strong public backlash.

“Shanghai authorities investigated Marriott International after the US-based hotel corporation categorised Chinese territories as countries in a mail questionnaire, angering its Chinese members,” the report said.

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

The Xinhua report quoted market observers as saying it operates 270 hotels with nearly 100,000 rooms in China.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 15:35 IST