Gap has apologized for a map of China on one of its T-shirts that upset internet users in the country.
A user on Chinese social network Weibo posted photos of a T-shirt they said was on sale at a Gap store in Canada, complaining that its design left out Taiwan and islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.
The US clothing brand is the latest international company to find itself in hot water over Chinese territorial issues.
The Chinese government in Beijing considers self-governed Taiwan to be an integral part of its territory and comes down hard on any suggestions to the contrary. China also claims sovereignty over a large swathe of territory in the South China Sea, including areas claimed by other countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.
Gap responded to the criticism on Weibo by announcing it had pulled the T-shirts from the Chinese market and destroyed them.
“Gap Inc. respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We’ve learned that a Gap brand T-shirt sold in some overseas markets failed to reflect the correct map of China in the design,” the company said in a statement posted late Monday on Weibo.
“We sincerely apologize for this unintentional error,” it added. “We’re currently conducting an internal inspection.”
The company didn’t say whether the product would be withdrawn from sale in other markets.
A series of other big Western brands have apologized over missteps on Chinese territorial issues.
Chinese authorities in January blocked Marriott’s websites and apps for a week after the company listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate countries in emails and apps. Marriott issued an apology, saying it respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
US airline Delta and European clothing retailer Zara also came under fire over similar issues on their websites in China. Both companies subsequently apologized.
Beijing has also been pressuring international companies to change their websites outside China to fit its views, prompting a clash with the US government.
Earlier this month, the White House described as “Orwellian nonsense” Chinese demands that more than 30 international airlines, including some US carriers, alter their websites to remove any information that could suggest that Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau are not part of China.