The U.S. clothing retailer Gap has apologized for selling T-shirts with what it says was an “erroneous” map of China in the latest example of corporate kowtowing to Beijing.
Users pointed out that a map printed on the T-shirts omitted territories claimed by China, including parts of southern Tibet, Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Gap issued an apology late Monday on its Weibo account, saying that some T-shirts sold overseas “had an erroneous design of China’s map.” The company stated it “respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”
“We are truly sorry about this unintentional mistake,” Gap said, promising to carry out “more rigorous reviews” in the future.
Gap took action after photos began circulating on Chinese social media of a T-shirt with a map that didn’t include Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing regards as Chinese territory. The map also appeared to leave out southern Tibet and the disputed South China Sea, the state-owned Global Times said, adding that it drew hundreds of complaints on Weibo.
The company also said all the shirts in China have been recalled and destroyed. It was unclear if the shirts in all of Gap’s markets worldwide would also be destroyed. Company representatives at Gap’s Shanghai office could not be reached immediately for comment.
The photos were taken at a Gap shop in Canada’s Niagara region, China’s state-owned Global Times said. It said that the Gap China headquarters in Shanghai told it, “The T-shirt in question has not been released in China.”
Gap is the latest of several companies that have apologized for perceived slights to China’s sovereignty.
Delta Air Lines, hotel operator Marriott, fashion brand Zara are among businesses that have apologized to China for referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet as countries on websites or promotional material. Mercedes-Benz said sorry for quoting the Dalai Lama on social media. The Tibetan spiritual leader is reviled by Beijing.
The U.S. has started pushing back against Beijing, with the White House condemning China’s efforts to control how U.S. airlines refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as “Orwellian nonsense.”
The U.S. retailer is the latest international company to offer an open apology for the perceived political slight, following suit with Daimler AG’s Mercedes- Benz and Marriott International Inc. It comes after the White House recently blasted China’s demand that U.S. and other airlines change the way they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as “Orwellian nonsense.”
China has stepped up its policing of international companies from retailers to airlines to demand they respect the government’s position on long-standing territorial disputes from Taiwan to Tibet.
Marriott International, Indetix SA-owned ZARA and Delta Air Lines Inc. all also issued apologies for listing Tibet and Taiwan as nations on their websites earlier this year. Mercedes-Benz also apologized in February for using a quote from the Dalai Lama in a post showcasing a sleek luxury model.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement earlier this month that China’s demands on airlines for strict guidelines for references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are “part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.” MDT/Agencies