Delta, Zara and Medtronic Join Marriott in Beijing's Doghouse After Location Gaffes

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Delta Airlines and the Marriott hotel chain have been issued with a "please explain" by China over their referring to Tibet and Taiwan as countries.

Aside from closing down the website, the Shanghai Cyberspace Administration said in statement that it was shutting the Marriott's mobile phone application, in a move that would also disrupt bookings.

Worldwide companies operating in China should respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, state broadcaster CCTV said, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang's comments at a regular briefing.

The global survey listed Taiwan, Tiber, Macau and Hong Kong as separate countries.

China also rebuked fashion company Zara and Delta Air Lines over the content of its websites.

The US carrier Delta Airlines has apologized for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website and for "hurting the feelings of the Chinese people", and said that the company was "thoroughly examining internal processes", adding that it would take "urgent steps to correct errors".

China claims Taiwan - an independent, democratically-run island - as a renegade region to be reunified with the mainland in the not-too-distant future.

Yet unlike the foreign companies, Air China was not ordered to make a public apology.

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"Political stance is the most important part of the brand awareness when foreign companies do businesses here", said Zhu Guangyu, a 44-year-old consumer from Shanghai.

Marriott's Chinese website now shows a message with an apology.

The original post, by Weibo user Zhongjusaodi, had called the survey "disgusting" and questioned the intelligence of Marriott's Greater China employees.

Hong Kong and Macau are both special administrative regions of China.

"We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologize", the message said, in a more solemn tone than previous ones offered on Chinese media that were slammed as insincere. Beijing says Taiwan, which is self-ruling, is a breakaway province, while Tibet is considered an autonomous region.

Authorities in Beijing began an investigation yesterday into the language used by the American multinational company in a questionnaire sent to customers by email.

Tibet has been controlled by China since the 1950s after the larger country invaded it, yet Taiwan has been ruling itself for about as long.

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