China blocks Marriott for listing Tibet and Taiwan as countries

Posted January 11, 2018 6:47 a.m. EST

— Marriott is suffering the consequences after making a major political misstep in China.

Chinese authorities say they have blocked the Marriott website and app for a week after the hotel group listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate "countries" in its emails and app.

The online ban began on Thursday.

The Chinese government considers these cities and territories to be part of a unified China and clamps down on any talk of sovereignty in these areas.

Chinese authorities say Marriott's wording violated cybersecurity and advertising laws. China's tourism ministry said it "attaches great importance to this incident" and immediately ordered an investigation.

It said others in the industry should heed this as a warning.

"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," it said. "Officials must ... severely punish violators."

Marriott was not immediately available for comment.

But it posted apologies on its Chinese social media accounts, saying it "respects China's sovereignty."

"We absolutely will not support any separatist organization that will undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said. "We apologize for any act that may give rise to misunderstandings."

The company said it had updated its websites and apps, and asked customers to update their apps. It also pledged to cooperate with Chinese authorities in their ongoing investigation.

China's cyber regulator also got involved, demanding meetings in Shanghai with two top regional executives from the American hotel chain and ordering the company to "conduct a comprehensive self-review and rectification."

Marriott has "seriously violated China's relevant laws and regulations and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," it said.

The hotel conglomerate operates 6,200 properties in 125 countries around the world. It operates well over 100 locations in the Greater China region.

Starwood, which is part of Marriott, is unaffected and its website remains accessible in China.