The actor Richard Gere has labelled China the world’s “largest hypocrisy” and condemned the communist nation’s continuing occupation of Tibet during a television interview at a religious event in India.
Gere, a Buddhist who is a devotee of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, spoke out during an extensive primetime interview on English-language news channel NDTV 24×7 last night. The actor, who is in India for the 10-day annual Kalachakra Puja Buddhist celebration, said China had failed to gauge the level of cultural idiosyncrasy in Tibet.
“China is a very difficult place to live if you are a free thinker, if you are an artist, if you are a religious person, but especially in Tibet,” said Gere. “I think they (China) have so wrongly gauged the Tibetan people, thinking they could subvert the deep, deep, deep religious beliefs and make them true communists. It’s never going to happen. Their whole lives have revolved around Buddhism, around their teachers, around their gurus … the high ideals of Buddhism. They are not going to change that in a hundred years, two hundred years, a thousand years. That will never go away.”
Gere added: “No matter how many roads [the Chinese] build, or how many skyscrapers, or how many – I think there’s about six or seven million Chinese settlers, Han Chinese who have been brought to Tibet at this point – it is not going to change [Tibetan culture]. [China] would have to kill every Tibetan to change it and they are not going to do that.”
The Kalachakra Puja takes place in the eastern state of Bihar at the holy Bodhgaya site, where the Buddha gained enlightenment. The festival was opened by the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India in the northern city of Dharamsala, along with a large Tibetan community. He left Tibet in 1959 due to the Chinese occupation. Gere has been a regular visitor to the area and has spoken out about the Chinese occupation on a number of occasions.
The actor was asked about recent cases of self-immolation by Tibetan Buddhist monks protesting against China. “It all really comes down to motivation,” he said. “I mean none of these self-immolators have harmed anybody else. It is totally a self-sacrifice for their people, for others. So on that level it’s a pure act. But I think it’s more important to look into the causes of why people would feel they would need to do these kind of things.”
Gere said the world should not let China’s increasing economic muscle persuade it to ignore the country’s indiscretions. “Are we more interested in money or are we more interested in the truth?” he asked. “Eventually you have to bow to the will of the people and especially as their progress as an economy, education also gets higher; their interactions with the world and other people’s functioning in the world, and the openness of self-expression. No one wants to live in hypocrisy, and China is the largest hypocrisy in the world right now.”