U.S. apparel company Gap apologized and vowed a more "rigorous reviews in the future" after one of its T-shirts was found with an incomplete map of China and sparked outrage among Chinese netizens on Monday.
"Gap Inc. respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We've learned a Gap brand T-shirt sold in some overseas markets mistakenly failed to reflect the correct map of China. We sincerely apologize for this unintentional error," read a statement sent to the Global Times by Gap on Monday.
According to photos attached to a post spreading on Chinese social media, Chinese territories, including South Tibet, the island of Taiwan and the South China Sea were omitted from the map on the T-shirt, while even the shape of the Bohai Sea area was distorted. The photo was taken at an outlet store in the Niagara shopping center in Canada, the post claimed.
Gap said in the statement that it is now conducting an internal inspection to correct the mistake as soon as possible.
"This batch of products had been pulled off shelves in the Chinese market and destroyed. As a responsible company, Gap Inc. strictly follows Chinese laws and rules," read the statement. Gap also said it is committed to more rigorous reviews in the future to avoid similar incidents again.
Chinese netizens brought the matter of the T-shirt to GAP's Weibo account on Monday, with hundreds of Weibo users protesting the company's act of disrespect to China's territorial sovereignty.
"Not recognizing one-China principle, there is no room for negotiations. GAP should be banned in China, get out of China," wrote one Sina Weibo user, who was echoed by others.
Another net user said, "We sincerely suggest foreign companies which want to do business in China should avoid damaging China's national interests. Even some of your products only sold overseas may be spotted."
"The T-shirt in question has not been released in China," said the GAP China headquarters in Shanghai when reached by the Global Times on Monday.
According to photos taken by netizens, the T-shirt is part of the GAP's City T-shirt in Jersey edition.
T-shirts available on GAP's website include those representing Canada, Japan, China, Paris, San Francisco and New York. The other T-shirts only display the national flags.
Regulators in China asked other companies, including Delta Airlines and Zara, to correct content on their websites in which they listed Taiwan as a "country" in January and Marriott International's website and app in China were shut down for one week for the same reason.