Respecting China's core interests is the bottom line for companies operating in the country. That is why it is hard to understand why a global hotel chain such as Marriott listed Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, and Taiwan and Tibet as "separate countries" in a recent questionnaire emailed to its customers.
Territorial integrity is the core interest of China, and Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Tibet are all indispensable parts of China. These facts are beyond doubt and challenge.
"We welcome foreign enterprises to do business in China. (But) they should respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by Chinese law, and respect the Chinese people's feelings, which are the foundation for any corporation to do business in any country," said Lu Kang, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in reply to a question on the Marriott incident at a news briefing in Beijing on Friday.
No matter what caused the mistake, Marriott has violated Chinese laws. And according to China's advertisement and internet security laws, Marriott could face a fine of up to 1 million yuan (US$154,000) or have its business license revoked.
Authorities in Shanghai have launched an investigation into the company and ordered all related content to be removed from its website and mobile app. On Thursday, the authorities ordered Marriott to shut down its Chinese website and app for a week and thoroughly investigate the case.
The fallout of the incident will be hard to ignore for an international brand with a heavy presence in China.
Although Marriott has apologized for the mistake and said it respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, what is more important is what the company will do in the future to prevent such mistakes from recurring.
To show its sincerity and corporate responsibility, Marriott should, at the very least, look into the matter and give a clear and convincing answer to the public. An enterprise should first study the laws of the country and resolve to abide by them in daily practice before doing business in China, and take all precautions to ensure it fulfills that vow.
All enterprises doing business in China should follow the country's laws. Marriott is no exception.
Xinhua News Agency
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