Western retailers kowtow to China over Tibet
January 15, 2018

By Didi Tang

The Times, January 15, 2018 – Foreign companies operating in China are rushing to pull from their websites and mobile apps any list that identifies Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong or Macau as countries, fearing a clampdown.

The fashion retailer Zara removed an app page that identified Taiwan as a country and apologised. Delta Air Lines has changed its country list and apologised, and the Chinese website for Bulgari underwent maintenance as Chinese consumers took it upon themselves to check foreign companies’ websites and apps.

Last week Beijing shut down the Marriott’s Chinese app after the US hotel chain listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries. Arne Sorenson, the chief executive, apologised but it is yet to appease patriotic Chinese consumers who are boycotting it. Clients are cancelling events and popular travel apps are removing Marriott products and services.

Taiwan is a self-governing island but Beijing sees it as a renegade province and has threatened to take it by force. Hong Kong and Macau, both former colonies, have returned to Chinese rule. Tibet is seeking autonomy and wants the return of its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who is in exile in India.