In a move which is clearly meant to target bookings of the USA hotel giant, authorities in Shanghai on Thursday ordered Marriott to close its website and "conduct a thorough check on all contents".
Marriott has said it was "deeply sorry" and wished to "reiterate our usual stand in respecting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity". The shots showed that Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were offered as possible answers to the question, "Which country are you now living in?"
Taiwan and the mainland split in 1949 after a civil war but the Communist Beijing government claims the island as its territory.
"Medtronic fully understands China's stance on its territorial issues, and we sincerely apologize for causing misunderstanding among the Chinese public", the latter posted in a statement on microblog platform Weibo. The French fashion company lists Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate countries from China on its "Contact Us" page, the Nikkei Asian Review confirmed. The regulator ordered Marriott's website and booking applications to close for a week.
The U.S. company issued an apology earlier in the day for the gaffe, which had drawn accusations of disrespecting Chinese sovereignty and calls for a boycott by angry netizens on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
Marriott is also investigating the "careless "like" by one of its official social media accounts of a pro-Tibet tweet that suggested its support for the position.
Marriott has "seriously violated China's relevant laws and regulations and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people", it said.
Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) is based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, and encompasses a portfolio of more than 6,100 properties in 30 leading hotel brands spanning 124 countries and territories. "Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite", the company's president and CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement.
Tibet is home to a large Buddhist population and considered by Beijing to be an autonomous region within China, but its spiritual leader the 14th Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, fled to India after a popular uprising in 1959 and established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.
Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, and goes under various names in global organizations, has been self-ruled since 1949 in defiance of the Communist regime in the PRC.