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Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are not “Countries”

By Tenzin Samten  /  January 17, 2018;

A chain reaction by international companies operating in China has been sparked by the Marriott International’s apology to China for listing Tibet as a separate country in their literature. Now more high end companies have followed the lead of the Marriott – the third biggest hotel chain in the world – and apologised to China and removed mention of Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries from their own literature.

The companies include Delta Air Lines, high end accessories brand Bulgari, medical device-maker Medtronic and fashion brand Zara.

Marriott International have retracted a survey questionnaire sent out to members asking for feedback which included mention of Tibet and Taiwan as countries in their own right. The chain has 124 hotels in China and is facing a backlash there amid calls to boycott its hotels.

Marriott International hotel in China

The Chinese authorities have blocked Marriott’s local website and mobile app for a week prompting repeated apologies and assurances that Marriott “respects China’s sovereignty.” The company was asked to review all their online content and make amendments. “We absolutely will not support any separatist organisation that will undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the Marriott in a statement. “We apologise for any act that may give rise to misunderstandings.”

Their survey asked customers which country they are from and included Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan listed as separate countries. The Chinese authorities labelled this a violation of China’s cyber security and advertising laws. China’s Tourism Minister said they “attach great importance to this incident” and has ordered an investigation.

China’s Tourism Minister has issued a warning to other hotel chains saying, “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. Officials must … severely punish violators.”

Following the incident, a Marriott employee “liked” a Tweet from Friends of Tibet, “Friends of Tibet congratulate global hotel chain #Marriott International for listing #Tibet as country along with #HongKong and #Taiwan” which further added fuel to the controversy. Craig Smith, President and managing director of Asia-Pacific for Marriott International, is reported as having suspended the employee.

Shanghai-based news portal Thepaper.cn reported that the websites of 24 different airlines list Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as “countries”. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has demanded that all foreign airlines with routes to China update the information on their websites and apps.

According to a report by CNBC, medical device-maker Medtronic and fashion brand Zara, fearing repercussion from the Chinese government, are reported as having apologised over the same issue.

China claims Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as part of their territory. Hong Kong and Macau are former colonies of foreign countries and are currently autonomous regions ruled by Beijing as Special Administrative Regions (SAR). Taiwan is considered a province by China though it is administered independently.

Tibet was an independent nation until China invaded it in 1959 and is still under their rule. Following their occupation, many Tibetans and their leader Dalai Lama fled Tibet seeking exile in India.

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