Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gere urges Olympics boycott

By Michelle Nichols, Sunday, September 2, 2007; 10:10 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Richard Gere chases a fugitive Bosnian war criminal in his latest movie role, but in real life the devout Buddhist is pursuing China on human rights abuses and says a boycott of the Beijing Olympics could help.

Gere, chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, told Reuters the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a good opportunity to encourage China to end human rights abuses in Tibet and allow the Himalayan region to decide its future.

Last month thousands of Tibetans marched in New Delhi and New York calling for a boycott of the Beijing games.

"A general boycott to me certainly has value; it's probably impractical, but emotionally absolutely makes sense," Gere, 58, said. "Why should the world reward people who are obviously so bad to their own people, so bad to other people."

"In the same sense, encouragement is really important," he said in an interview to promote "The Hunting Party," opening in U.S. theaters on Friday. "Not one country on this planet has got it all together, including the United States."

Golden Globe winner Gere, star of "American Gigolo" and "Pretty Woman," has long been barred from visiting China for his support of Tibet and in 1993 spoke out about the plight of the Himalayan region at the Academy Awards.

China has ruled Tibet since 1950. About 120,000 Tibetans are exiled in India, including the Dalai Lama -- Tibet's spiritual leader -- who fled after a failed uprising in 1959.

Amnesty International and other rights groups say China is severely restricting the freedom of Tibetan people and suppressing their culture. China says it is helping a historically poor region develop.

"China should be achieving extraordinary greatness," Gere said. "At some point they are going to have to face the fact that this system they have committed themselves to will not work. The kind of pretend dualism of communism and capitalism will explode at some point."


In "The Hunting Party" Gere takes on another contentious international issue -- fugitives from the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Gere plays war reporter Simon Hunt. In 2000 Hunt, cameraman Duck, played by Terrence Howard, and rookie reporter Benjamin, played by Jesse Eisenberg, set off on a sometimes humorous search for Bosnia's most wanted war criminal -- "The Fox."

The movie was developed from an Esquire magazine article by war correspondent Scott Anderson. Anderson and four other journalists reunited in Sarajevo in 2000 and came up with a sketchy plan to find top war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic.

To their surprise they came closer than they ever thought they would to finding Karadzic and had a run in with the CIA that left them with the impression that Washington didn't really want to catch war criminals.

Karadzic is a former Bosnian Serb political leader who has been indicted by a U.N. war crimes tribunal for genocide, but he remains on the run more than a decade after the war ended.

"The Hunting Party," directed by Richard Shepard, likens the half-hearted hunt for Karadzic to the U.S.-led search for Osama bin Laden -- founder of al Qaeda and accused mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States -- a skeptical view shared by Gere.

"They don't even talk about him anymore," he said. "It was very quick that it became 'Oh this isn't about bin Laden, this is about terrorism.' Who knows what goes on?OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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