British Airways has been hit with a wave of criticism from China’s fiery, nationalistic Internet users for listing Taiwan and Hong Kong as countries on its website.
BA has become the latest overseas brand to come under attack in China, where any perceived misinterpretation of the country’s national borders can cause widespread anger.
However, the British flag carrier does not appear to have followed other global businesses in immediately changing its online platform.
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Other global companies have been forced to make public apologies for offending Chinese sentiments, and Chinese media said that Lufthansa recently chose to adjust their category of "Taiwan" to "Taiwan, China" on its website.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a renegade province that will one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary. Hong Kong was a British colony for more than a century before it was returned to China in 1997.
BA came under a barrage of criticism after Taiwanese media reported that it removed reference to China from its drop down menus listings Taiwan and Hong Kong after emailed requests from Taiwanese.
However, that was denied by a source close to the airline.
But many comments on Chinese social media expressed outraged at BA for continuing to list Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries.
"Has British Airways been driven out of the Chinese market because of this yet?" asked one post on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. "Then hurry up and ask it to leave," the post continued.
"BA really is taking the road to ruin," said another comment.
British Airways issued a statement on Weibo saying it has "always respected and supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of China.
"(We) have launched an internal inspection of all technical platforms and will put our energy into updating and debugging them," it added.
.@British_Airways has drawn anger among Chinese citizens after it categorized Taiwan and Hong Kong as independent countries on its website https://t.co/eYtzgPuASH pic.twitter.com/8DUsqRa6Rh
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 14, 2018
A BA spokesman did not elaborate on that comment, but told The Telegraph: "We always meet our obligations under international law, and regularly make changes to our website."
The Global Times newspaper, in its report on the row, compared the status of Taiwan and Hong Kong with Gibraltar.
"It is worth mentioning that British Airways listed Gibraltar as ‘Gibraltar (UK)’ on its website," it said.
"The island, however, remains a source of controversy between the UK and Spain."
The BA row follows similar incidents involving US hotel chain Marriot and German car-maker Mercedes-Benz.
In January, China shut down Marriott’s local website and mobile phone app after the hotel chain listed Hong Kong and Tibet as countries in an online survey.
And Mercedes-Benz was forced to apologise for "hurting the feelings" of the people of China for quoting the Dalai Lama on Instagram.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei