Marriott website in China temporarily closed after questionnaire gaffe

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Marriott Draws Fire Over Geography Slip-Up

Chinese authorities in Shanghai took down Marriott International's Chinese website for a week after the US hotel chain listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries.

Marriott has issued an apology and amended the online questionnaire, which asked members of the chain's customer rewards programme to list their country of residence, giving Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as possible options.

Shanghai authorities said they met with Marriott's management earlier this week to demand that the offending materials be corrected and that the company do its best to rectify the "bad influence" from the affair.

"We are deeply sorry for the questionnaire", said Marriott Rewards, which is responsible for managing Marriott International's membership correspondence, in a statement on its official Weibo account later the same day. As well as causing a stir on social media, the gaffe prompted authorities in Shanghai to suggest that the questionnaire breached China's cyber-security and advertisement laws, AFP reported.

Another said that while Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong are sometimes listed separately, "it is the first time to list Tibet as such". The choices included Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, all of which are regarded by the Beijing government as being part of China.

Nothing could be further from the truth: 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.

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

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Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and Tibet are all parts of China, which is not only a basic fact, but also the consensus of the worldwide community, spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing.

"I think this is the basic principle for foreign countries to conduct operations and investment in other countries", Lu said.

In response, the country's internet regulator has accused Marriott International of breaking Chinese law and ordered it to close its Chinese website and online booking applications for a week.

"Upon completion of a full investigation into how both incidents happened, we will be taking the necessary disciplinary action with respect to the individuals involved", the statement said.

In a statement, Sorenson continued: "As a company, we take very seriously the privilege and opportunity we have to serve guests in countries around the world - and particularly in China, a market we have been in for over 30 years".

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

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