Marriott website ordered to close after territorial blunder

Marriott International has been ordered to shut down its Chinese website and app for seven days for listing Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries.

Shanghai Cyberspace Administration has ordered Marriott International to shut down its official Chinese website and Chinese app for one week from 6pm on Thursday after it was found to have listed Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries in questionnaires and on its app.

Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were listed as separate countries in the questionnaires and on the app of Marriott International.

The administration said Marriott International has severely violated Chinese law and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

The hospitality company was also ordered to thoroughly scrutinize its content and rectify and remove all illegal information.

The administration said it would consider further measures based on what actions the company takes.

The China National Tourism Administration has also ordered the Shanghai tourism watchdog to investigate.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Huangpu District’s Internet regulator and market watchdog held meetings with executives of the hospitality company over the issue.

Marriott International has since released three statements on its Weibo account. It apologized for the “mistakes,” suspended all questionnaires and upgraded its app to correct the information. It restated that it respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to a report by thepaper.cn on Tuesday, Marriott International attributed the listing as a “system glitch,” without further elaborating.

Twitter 'like' makes matters worse

The world's biggest hotel chain was further mired in scandal after it was discovered on Thursday by Chinese netizens that the chain's Twitter operators "liked" a tweet posted by a Tibetan separatist account.

A screenshot showing how Marriott Rewards "liked" a tweet posted by a Tibetan separatist account.

The account, named Friends of Tibet, posted a tweet on January 9 congratulating Marriott International for listing Tibet as a country. Operators of the Marriott Twitter account subsequently "liked" the tweet.

Marriott apologized on Twitter on Thursday, saying it doesn’t support separatist groups.

"Marriott International respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We don’t support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We sincerely apologize for any actions that may have suggested otherwise," it said on Twitter.

Chinese netizens called Marriott's social media management “a total disaster.”

Marriott apologized on Twitter regarding the territorial issue.


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