Marriott International was ordered to shut down its Chinese website and app for a week as Chinese internet users lambasted the hotel chain for identifying Tibet as a country.
In response to the hotel listing Tibet as a country in a membership email, officials from the Shanghai office for cyberspace affairs met Marriott Rewards representatives and ordered them to shut down the platforms starting 6 p.m. Thursday and correct related information.
On Thursday online fury escalated further when some Chinese net users alleged Marriott Rewards had expressed online support for a tweet by a Tibetan independence organization.
Marriot Rewards had "liked" a tweet by the Friends of Tibet, a Twitter account supporting a "free and independent Tibet," the users posted Thursday morning.
On Thursday afternoon Marriott International responded with its third apology in three days, saying the company respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.
"We don't support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China," read the official Marriot Rewards statement on its Sina Weibo accounts. "We sincerely apologize for any actions that may have suggested otherwise."
The original furore erupted on Tuesday over a questionnaire e-mailed to Marriott Rewards card members that asked them to identify their country as the Chinese mainland, Tibet, Macao, Hong Kong or Taiwan, according to a microblog post by internet user zhongjusaodi.
The next day Shanghai district police announced that Marriott was suspected of violating China's laws on cyber security and advertisements.
"The regulator of cyberspace affairs and market supervision bureau of Huangpu have noticed the incident of Marriott International listing China's Tibet Autonomous Region as a country and had a meeting with its heads on Tuesday and Wednesday," according to a Huangpu district government notice on its Sina Weibo account on Wednesday.
The regulators told the company to withdraw the content in question and conduct an overall check of information released online and on its app.
The hotel chain was also asked to give a timely response to "public concerns, make corrections on different channels and try its best to erase the bad influence."
In response to the notice from the Shanghai Huangpu district, Marriott Rewards released its second apology late Wednesday, saying it checked websites and apps affiliated to the hotel chain and immediately acted to make accurate descriptions of countries and regions.
"All the websites - in Chinese and English - have been corrected and the upgrading of the apps finished on Tuesday… Marriott is actively cooperating with the government on the investigation.
"We again sincerely apologize and thank the feedbacks of customers and netizens," read the announcement on Wednesday.
Not everyone was buying the apologies.
On Thursday Chinese net users claiming to be customers wrote that they have cancelled their bookings with Marriott.
The China National Tourism Administration on Thursday ordered local tourism bureaus to investigate the incident as hotel and accommodation "relate to the image of Chinese tourism."