Overseas firms in China told to respect sovereignty

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies urged overseas companies on Friday to show respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity after more companies were found to have made mistakes like listing parts of the country such as Taiwan and Tibet as separate nations in public corporate communications.

After Marriott International was found to have listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as countries in a survey sent to its Chinese members, three others-fashion retailer Zara, US medical equipment company Medtronic and Delta Air Lines were also found to have similar mistakes on their websites.

"It's a fact and international consensus that Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Tibet are all parts of China," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a regular news briefing on Friday in Beijing.

"We welcome foreign companies to invest and do business in China, but these companies should also respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, observe Chinese laws, and care about Chinese people's national sentiments. It is the basic principle that a company should follow when doing business in another country."

The Shanghai Cyberspace Administration on Friday urged operators of the Zara and Medtronic websites to correct the illegal content and make public apologies.

Spanish retailer Zara, with some 170 stores in China, listed Taiwan as an independent country in a description of its clothes recycling programme on zara.cn. It said it has installed recycling containers in China, and will spread the programme to "countries" including Taiwan.

On medtronic.com, the company put China and "Republic of China (Taiwan)" in its menu of countries and regions.

An overhaul of the two sites was requested and their operators asked to deliver a written report on their rectification and improvement, the administration said. Further actions were pending.

By Friday afternoon, Zara had taken down the page and the "Republic of China" option was deleted by Medtronic.

Delta Air Lines was found on Friday to have labelled Tibet and Taiwan as countries on its Chinese website.

The error appeared in the section where the US company asked for personal information of those submitting feedback. Tibet and Taiwan were in the drop-down menu for countries.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said it asked the company to investigate, correct the errors at once and publicly apologise. By Friday evening, Delta had changed the menu title to countries and territories, and deleted Tibet from the list.

The topic became red hot on social media after media outlets posted screenshots.

The public scrutiny came after an investigation of Marriott opened by the government for its membership programme questionnaire labeling Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as countries. Marriott shut down its Chinese website and app on Friday to conduct a weeklong review.

Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson apologised in a public statement released on Thursday, saying the company respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, will learn from the incident and make changes to ensure similar errors won't happen again.

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