Film star Sharon Stone has set off a storm of fury across China after she suggested the deadly earthquake that killed as many as 80,000 people was bad karma for Beijing policy in Tibet.
Several Chinese cinemas have pledged not to screen her movies and the Internet has exploded in a stream of angry comments.
Ms Stone, speaking at the Cannes Film Festival last week, said: “I’m not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else.”
Answering questions on the red carpet, she revived memories of the international outrage that followed a Chinese decision to send in troops and the paramilitary to restore order to swathes of Tibetan China after Tibetans rampaged through Lhasa on March 14, killing at least 18 people.
She said: “I’ve been concerned about how we should deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine. And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma – when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?”
The popular Beijing Times quoted Ng See-yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain, as saying that no film featuring Ms Stone would be shown from now on at any UME cinema in Hong Kong or in the mainland. Her most recent film, The Year of Getting to Know Us, and four other movies starring the actress, are scheduled by 2010.
The Chinese public relations company acting for cosmetic and couture house Christian Dior – which uses Ms Stone extensively in its advertisements – had distanced itself from her remarks, the newspaper said. Dior boutiques in major Beijing department stores had removed images of Ms Stone in advertisements by yesterday evening.
Thousands of Internet users have posted criticisms online. Many have urged a boycott of products with which Ms Stone is said to be associated – ranging from Guerlain to Ebel.
One young Chinese man, who gave his name only as Adam, posted a video on YouTube calling on the star to apologise. “I want her to say sorry. It’s not for me. It’s for the dead people.”
China says more than 67,000 people have been confirmed dead in the May 12 earthquake that devastated a mountainous corner of southwestern Sichuan province and more than 20,000 are still missing.
Some websites have even posted slideshows of Ms Stone, usually topless and sometimes in affectionate poses with a male friend, accompanied by captions describing the actress as “dissolute and shameless”. One read: “Shut up, shameless woman”.