Delta had categorized both Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries on its website. On the same day, China's Civil Aviation Administration summoned executives of Delta as the carrier on its website listed Taiwan and Tibet, located in western China, as nations.
A Tibetan flag seen in Hong Kong. Moreover, residents of these three places also have their own passports and maintain separate visa and travel agreements with countries.
Even as the questionnaire was withdrawn following backlash by China's online community, the global hotel chain's official Twitter account added fuel to the fire when it liked a tweet by Tibetan separatist group. Of course, Twitter is blocked in China.
During a press conference on Thursday, Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it is not only an "objective fact" but also an "international consensus" that these territories are part of China.
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Chinese media is reporting that some travellers are cancelling Marriott reservations in response. China's ruling Communist Party considers it a breakaway province and has vowed to retake it, by force if necessary.
Former colonies of the United Kingdom and Portugal respectively, Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of China.
It said others in the industry should heed this as a warning. Modern firms and industrial projects were and are expressions of state power for the CCP.
Tibet is home to a large Buddhist population and considered by Beijing to be an autonomous region within China, but its spiritual leader the 14th Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, fled to India after a popular uprising in 1959 and established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala. Promoting anything, even by mistake, that runs in opposition to these political goals can be subject to punishment. While Marriott has over 100 hotels in the country under different brands, it is also keen to profit from the swelling number of Chinese people travelling internationally. China accuses the Dalai Lama of stoking up a separatist movement.
According to China's aviation authority, it would require all worldwide airlines operating in China, to check up their websites, apps and customer-related information so that they "strictly comply with China's laws and regulations to prevent a similar thing from happening".