BEIJING-Authorities in Shanghai on Thursday closed down Marriott International Inc.'s Chinese website for a week, punishing the world's biggest hotel chain for listing Chinese-claimed regions such as Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.
"Cyberspace is not an extralegal place, and multinational corporations should abide by relevant laws and regulations", the Shanghai Cyberspace Authority said on its microblog account.
Zara added a three-sentence statement to its website expressing "sincere apologies" and said it would conduct a "self-examination".
"We wrongly described Taiwan as a country in the section "Join Life" of our webpage", the Inditex-owned fashion retailer said in a statement.
"The apology is insincere", said another. "This is the minimum requirement of any company going to another country to carry out business and investment", he said.
Delta had categorized both Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries on its website.
United States carrier Delta Air Lines has also been reprimanded by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) for labelling Taiwan and Tibet as countries. "We apologize deeply for hurting the feelings of Chinese people".
Caixin Global reports that Marriott's including Tibet in the drop-down list was particularly offensive to Weibo commenters as other brands from overseas have previously also listed Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as "countries" in an English-language context.
China, emboldened by its growing economic and geopolitical influence, is showing less tolerance of what it sees as violations of its political bottom line by foreign companies. Taiwan, which was ruled by the Nationalist Party for decades after it was defeated by the Communist Party in the civil war, is considered a "renegade province".
Nevertheless, some angry Chinese internet users continue to dig up dirt on worldwide companies, claiming luxury brands such as Chanel have made similar postings.
Former colonies of the United Kingdom and Portugal respectively, Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of China.
Other internet users took to foreign brands' social media pages. Ctrip.com International Ltd, China's largest travel website, said in October the number of tourists using the week-long national holiday to visit South Korea plunged 70 percent this year.
In 2008, hundreds of protesters called for a boycott of the French retailer Carrefour after Tibetan activists disrupted the Olympic torch's journey through Paris.