As Zara notes on its e-commerce site, “We are present in over 50 countries, please select yours here.” On that list of countries: Taiwan. And the selection has landed the Spanish fast fashion giant in hot water with Chinese regulators, who scolded Zara, as well as Delta Air Lines and medical device maker Medtronic, on Friday for incorrectly labelling Taiwan as a “country” on their websites. This is, according to the Associated Press, “a fresh show of Beijing’s acute sensitivity about the self-ruled island.”
The companies were ordered by the Shanghai Cyberspace Authority to remove the “illegal content” from their sites and make public apologies by 6 p.m. (Beijing time) on Friday. While both Delta and Medtronic have issued statements and taken steps to alter their sites to remedy the issue, “there was no statement on Zara’s website or official social media account ahead of the deadline,” according to the AP. Phone calls to its China headquarters were not answered. It does appear, however, that Zara – which was “required [by the Shanghai Cyberspace Authority] to conduct a comprehensive self-examination” – has changed the language in at least some places, including on its Zara Home site, which reads, “Choose your Country or Region.”
This is not the first time the Chinese officials have lashed out at companies, including publishers of books, maps or other materials, that have labelled the island a country, since Taiwan and Mainland China split in 1949 after a civil war. Nonetheless, the Chinese government claims the island as its territory.
“Cyberspace is not an extralegal place, and multinational corporations should abide by relevant laws and regulations,” the Shanghai Cyberspace Authority said on its microblog account. And foreign companies’ failure to properly label Taiwan as a Chinese nation is, according to the Cyberspace Authority, “a possible violation of cybersecurity laws.”