US clothes giant GAP said it was “extremely sorry” for selling a T-shirt with an ‘incomplete’ map of China, after it was accused of being disrespectful to the country’s territorial sovereignty.
The company is the latest to publicly express its remorse after being hit with an online backlash from China’s often nationalist keyboard warriors.
Photographs of a T-shirt that the clothes brand had apparently sold in Canada were circulating on China’s Internet, with many online comments saying that southern Tibet, Taiwan and the South China Sea were missing.
The Global Times newspaper said that “hundreds of Weibo users (were) protesting the company’s act of disrespect to China’s territorial sovereignty.”
“Stupid, rubbish company,” said one comment on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. “Get out of China if you don’t recognise its borders.”
Another post said: “Resist such a rubbish company! And withdraw this T shirt from all markets.”
American clothing retailer @Gap on Monday apologized for printing incomplete Chinese map on T-shirts for sales outside #China, said the brand respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity pic.twitter.com/uHJoLnpmr6
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) May 14, 2018
Amid the rising tide of anger, GAP issued a statement on Weibo on Monday evening saying that the company “respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“We have acknowledged that the design of the Chinese map on a T-shirt in some overseas markets is incorrect. We feel extremely sorry for the unintentional mistake,” it added.
“We are now launching an internal investigation to correct mistakes as soon as possible. This product has been withdrawn from China’s market and destroyed.”
Chinese officials and Internet users are often quick to lambast companies who fail to recognise on their websites or with their products Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea or over the self-ruled island of Taiwan.
At a glance | The One China policy
The prestigious Man Booker International Prize changed the nationality of a Taiwanese nominee to Chinese on its website after it was pressured by officials from China’s Embassy in the UK. The literary prize eventually backtracked on its decision last month.
British Airways also changed its website to list Taiwan as a Chinese territory in its dropdown menus, following German airline Lufthansa in giving in to Beijing’s demands.
The White House last week harshly criticised China’s efforts to require foreign airlines to change how they refer to Taiwan and the former British colony of Hong Kong, labelling the effort “Orwellian nonsense.”
Q&A | South China Sea dispute
Meanwhile, a photo of Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts depicting Beijing’s claims to the disputed South China Sea when they arrived at a Vietnamese airport has sparked online anger in Vietnam.
The shirts featured a map of China and its ‘nine-dash line’, which illustrates the sea boundary which Beijing says proves its claim to most of the waterway, despite partial claims from Vietnam and other nations.
Photos of the tourists in their nationalist attire were widely shared on Vietnamese social media, with many posts calling for the party to be deported.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei