Location, Location: Chinese Officials Slam Marriott's Designation of Hong Kong, Macau as Countries

U.S. hotel giant Marriott International Inc. has come under fire from Chinese authorities and customers after circulating an online guest survey that included Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macau in a list of countries.

Hong Kong and Macau are both part of China, but are governed under the "one country, two systems" formula, which allows them to maintain their own legal, political and economic systems. Tibet, a Chinese province, harbors a faction that believes it should be independent. Taiwan is an independent country but isn't recognized as such by Beijing.

Marriott has issued an apology for falling to classify the locations as territories, saying the language from the poll was a mistake and had been pulled.

"We sincerely apologize and thank guests and netizens for their candid feedback," a spokeswoman for the company said in an email Thursday, adding that the company had updated its website and apps to "ensure the proper country/region classifications."

The Huangpu district of Shanghai--where Marriott's business is registered --said late Wednesday that Marriott violated cyber-security and advertising laws and that it had launched an investigation into the hotel group. The move came after some Chinese consumers noticed the listing and took to social media earlier this week to call for a boycott of its properties.

The company was "fully and actively cooperating" with the investigation, the spokeswoman said.

In a posting on its official social media account, the district said local representatives of both the Cyberspace Administration of China and the Market Supervision and Management Bureau met earlier this week with Marriott's executives in the country.

The hotel company was told to fix the mistake and "conduct a full examination of its website and apps" to prevent similar content from appearing in the future, authorities said in an online statement. Marriott was also told to publicly apologize for the incident, authorities added.

"Marriott International has great respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the spokeswoman said in a separate communication on Wednesday.

Marriott operates about 290 hotels and resorts in the greater China region, which includes locations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macau. Its first hotel in greater China, the 602-room JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, opened in 1989.

-- Xiao Xiao contributed to this article.

Write to Wayne Ma at wayne.ma@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2018 04:59 ET (09:59 GMT)