‘Why are Taiwan and Hong Kong separate from China?’: Chinese raise ruckus over Apple’s iPhone presentation

Internet users, state-run tabloid outraged by wording of slide used in publicity event, as others call for Chinese people to stop being so sensitive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 9:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 10:55pm

A publicity event for Apple’s new smartphones that referred to “Hong Kong”, “Taiwan” and “China” as separate markets – rather than parts of a single country – has sparked fresh fury in certain quarters of the Chinese media and among some internet users over what they perceive as the latest example of a foreign firm’s lack of respect for the nation’s sovereignty.

When speaking about the new iPhone XS, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing, said that shipping would begin on September 21 to “all of these markets”, as a slide projected behind him showed the flags and names of 30 places around the world.

Included on the list were China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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That was too much for internet user Subao Brother, who took to Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Thursday to vent his spleen.

“Starting with me, let’s boycott Apple,” he wrote. “To have Hong Kong and Taiwan listed as countries without any indication of them being part of China. We cannot stand for this!”

Neither the slide used in the presentation nor Schiller referred to the markets as countries.

In an article published on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging platform, state-run tabloid Global Times accused Apple of double standards.

“If Apple has the sense to put US before Virgin Islands to differentiate it from British Virgin Islands, why can’t it put China before Hong Kong and Taiwan to make more people aware of the fact recognised by the United Nations and most countries in the world?” it said.

The final name on Schiller’s list of markets was “US Virgin Islands”. The British Virgin Islands were not on it.

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The Central Committee of Communist Youth League of China also made its thoughts known on the matter, saying on Weibo that the US tech company should have made it clear that Hong Kong and Taiwan are parts of China and not separate countries.

“Apple, what do you mean by this presentation?” the post said.

Beijing regards Taiwan, which is a self-ruled democracy, as a wayward province and an inalienable part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

While some raced to demonise Apple for the perceived misstep, others were more phlegmatic.

“Apple referred to markets, not countries or regions,” an internet user said. “It used the term of greater China when announcing sales and included mainland China, China Taiwan, China Hong Kong and China Macau. The [Chinese articles] were misleading.”

Another wrote: “China is being so extremely sensitive [on such matters]. This isn’t the behaviour of a confident nation … When can we, Chinese citizens, become more broad-minded?”

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Apple is not the first foreign firm to find itself embroiled in such a controversy. At the start of the year hotel chain Marriott, which listed Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate countries in a customer questionnaire, was forced to apologise for doing so, while more recently Beijing ordered 44 foreign airlines to make clear on their websites that Taiwan is part of China.

Apple China did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.