Marriott said on its official account on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, that “we will absolutely not support any separatist organization that will undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Huangpu district of Shanghai, where Marriott China is based in, said on Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into the company for violating cybersecurity and advertising laws and questioned Marriott executives. Angry Chinese called for a boycott of the hotel chain.
“They are earning our people’s money and yet they are thinking of splitting our motherland,” said a user on Weibo.
In a statement, the company said it is fully cooperating with the investigation and has updated its website and apps to “ensure the proper country/region classifications.”
“We sincerely apologize and thank guests and netizens for their candid feedback,” it said.
China is quick to lash out against any hint of support for an independent Tibet and for an independent Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that Beijing regards as a breakaway province and has vowed to take back by force if it declares independence. In recent years, many nationalistic Chinese have stoked a backlash against many foreign companies that are seen to be anti-China.
Last year, China forced the shutdown of more than 80 stores owned by the South Korean supermarket chain Lotte, which provided land for an American missile defense system intended to stop potential launches by North Korea.
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. Irate Chinese internet users accused Carrefour of supporting pro-Tibetan independence groups.
In recent years, the government has condoned nationalist outbursts and then stamped them out after a short period.
In 2012, they allowed anti-Japanese demonstrations, which were fueled over islands that are claimed by both Japan and China. During those marches in Beijing, police officers stood by as eggs and plastic water bottles were thrown at the Japanese embassy. Protesters took photos using Canon cameras and ate from lunchboxes from Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain, during their breaks.