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Technology

Angry Chinese wait for Huawei apology over 'Taipei, Taiwan'

Smartphone giant changes setting that implied island's independence

The Huawei logo is pictured on the company's stand during the 'Electronics Show - International Trade Fair for Consumer Electronics' at Ptak Warsaw Expo in Nadarzyn, Poland.   © Reuters

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Huawei Technologies was under pressure Thursday to apologize for implying Taiwan was independent from China in its smartphone settings after calls for a boycott forced the Chinese telecom giant to issue a quick update.

Chinese netizens were outraged over the setting, taking to Weibo -- China's equivalent of Twitter -- early this week to complain. They were upset because Huawei smartphones listed "Taipei (Taiwan)" for a time zone when the default language was set to traditional Chinese, which is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but "Taipei (China)" for users set to simplified Chinese, which is mostly used on mainland China.

By Wednesday, the hashtag #HuaweiGetoutofChina started to appear on Weibo, with users calling for Huawei to apologize.

Amid calls for boycotts of Huawei products, the world's second biggest smartphone maker, quickly responded with a software update which now shows "Taipei (China)" for phones in either language setting.

Huawei has yet to issue a public response to the incident. And many Chinese netizens are now calling for an official apology from the company.

Huawei declined to comment on the matter.

The incident was especially embarrassing for the Shenzhen-based company given its special status with Beijing, which named it one the core companies of President Xi Jinping's "Made in China 2025" plan. Launched in 2015, the 10-year plan seeks to update China's manufacturing base by developing the high-tech sector.

Multinational companies, such as luxury brands Versace and Coach, have been apologizing this week after incurring the wrath of Chinese consumers over websites or products seen as challenging Beijing's sovereignty over Hong Kong or Taiwan.

Thanks to their spending power, Chinese consumers have been effective in changing companies' behavior with threats of boycotts. But Taiwan has been a particularly sensitive topic as companies have more than just consumer boycotts to worry about.

They also do not want to expose themselves to any potential government action as China's relationship with Taiwan -- which it regards as an integral part of its territory -- has deteriorated over the past few years with Beijing banning individual mainlanders travel there this month.

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