Marriott website shut down in China after listing Taiwan and Tibet as ‘countries’

Shanghai Cyberspace Administration has ordered the hotel group to suspend its website and Chinese app for one week in penance
Jan 12, 2018 · 2 min read

The website and app of the American hotel chain Marriott has been suspended in China for one week over a sloppily-worded survey that was sent out earlier this week to rewards club members.

The global survey listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Macau as separate “countries,” a political faux pas that was spotted by Chinese netizens, before also gaining the attention of Chinese authorities.

On Thursday evening, the Shanghai office of China’s Cyberspace Administration announced that it had ordered Marriott to shut down its Chinese website and the Chinese version of its smartphone app for one week, adding that the hotel group was under investigation for violating Chinese cybersecurity and advertising law.

Marriott had “seriously violated” Chinese regulations and “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” the state internet watchdog said.

Meanwhile, China’s tourism ministry has voiced its support for the investigation and said that other groups in the industry should take lessons from the incident.

The hotel chain managed to hurt even more Chinese feelings after netizens noticed that the company’s Marriot Rewards Twitter account had “liked” a tweet posted by a Tibetan separatist account named “Friends of Tibet,” which congratulated Marriott for listing Tibet as a country.

Marriott has since apologized profusely for this pair of political missteps, and has attempted to distance itself from separatist elements.

“Marriott International respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” the company tweeted. “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.”

The company has promised to cooperate with Chinese authorities in their investigation, has corrected the wording of the online survey, and has launched its own investigation into the “careless” like. In other words, things aren’t looking great for Marriott’s social media manager and graphics intern.

Marriott operates around 300 hotels and resorts in the Greater China region, which includes mainland China, along with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Macau.