BEIJING: US clothing retailer Gap has apologised to China over a T-shirt with a map showing the mainland but omitting Taiwan, becoming the latest foreign firm to run afoul of Beijing's policy on the self-ruling island.
China, which considers Taiwan a rebel province awaiting reunification, has taken airlines, hotels and other companies to task in recent months for listing the island as a separate country on their websites.
The Gap shirt, which was sold in overseas markets, features a map of China, but Taiwan does not appear to the southeast of the country, according to a photo of the company's online store posted on the Twitter account of the official People's Daily newspaper.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said the map also omitted South Tibet and the South China Sea, and that the issue sparked a social media frenzy in China after a photo was posted of the shirt at an outlet store in Canada.
Hundreds of people complained on Gap's official account on China's Weibo microblogging website, the daily said.
The US company issued its apology on Weibo late Monday, saying it "respects the integrity of China's sovereignty and territory".
"We are terribly sorry for this unintentional mistake. We are doing internal checks to correct the mistake as soon as possible," Gap said.
"We have removed the product from the Chinese market and destroyed them all."
The company said it strictly abides by Chinese law and will devote itself to greater scrutiny to avoid similar errors in the future.
The Global Times quoted Gap as saying that the T-shirt had not been released in China.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang took note of the apology and would not say at a press briefing whether the government had complained to Gap.
"We have noticed this (Gap) statement and we will pay close attention to it," Lu said.
US hotel chain Marriott, Spanish clothing giant Zara and a slew of airlines have faced China's wrath for not classifying Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
The White House hit back at the push earlier this month, calling the demands placed on airlines "Orwellian nonsense".
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration had sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines, including a number of US carriers, on April 25, asking them to comply with Beijing's standards, according to the White House.
In January, Australia's Qantas Airways changed its website classification of Taiwan and Hong Kong from separate countries to Chinese territories, blaming its earlier approach on an "oversight".
Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the mainland after a 1949 civil war, maintaining its own government, military and independent foreign policy.