Beijing, Jan 12 (PTI) China today asked foreign companies investing in the country to “respect” its sovereignty and territorial integrity as it ordered a probe after a leading US-based hotel chain listed Tibet and Hong Kong as “countries”.

Marriott International sparked an outrage in China when it sent out a questionnaire which asked members of its customer rewards programme to list their country of residence.

The options included Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Shanghai authorities have investigated the American hotel corporation after it categorised the Chinese territories as “country” in a mail questionnaire, which caused a stir among its Chinese netizens, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

China’s cyberspace administration and market supervision bureau of Huangpu district said they had conducted interviews with the hotel company’s representatives in China and ordered all related content to be removed from its website and mobile application.

Competent Chinese authorities have taken measures to handle the case and the company has apologised, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kanog told reporters here when asked about the Marriot mail.

“I should stress that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet are parts of China. This is an objective fact and also the consensus of the international community,” he said.

“China welcomes foreign companies to invest and operate in China but they in the meanwhile should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, respect our laws and regulations, as well as the feelings of the Chinese people,” Lu said.

Earlier, a Chinese internet user posted on microblogging site Weibo a screenshot of Marriott’s mail questionnaire, which listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as options under the question “Which country are you from?” Marriott, which has 124 hotels in China, has apologised twice on its Weibo social media account amid calls by netizens to boycott the hotel.

“We are deeply sorry for the questionnaires. We realised that this mistake would deeply disappoint our Chinese customers. For now, we have suspended the questionnaires and fix the options at once. We apologise for the inconvenience caused by the incident,” the hotel chain said.

Former British colony Hong Kong and former Portuguese colony Macau are ruled as Special Administrative Regions (SAR) by China.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.