Fiat to keep running ad with Gere in Tibet

Fiat said on Monday it will keep running an ad featuring actor Richard Gere and a reference to Tibet that has angered some in China and prompted the Italian automaker to issue an apology.

Gere, a Buddhist who has been active in the movement to free Tibet, appears in the TV ad for Fiat’s new Lancia Delta, using the car to whiz from Hollywood to the snows of the Himalayas, where he plays with a group of young Buddhist monks.

Fiat said in a statement on Friday that casting Gere for the ad had not been a “political choice” and was not driven by the desire to “interfere with the internal political system of any country”.

The company apologised to China’s government and its people for any offence arising from “misinterpretations of its well-established position of neutrality”.

However, a Fiat spokesperson said the company will continue to run the ad in Italy and introduce it in other European countries as the Lancia Delta goes on sale across the continent.

The spokesperson, who could not be identified under company policy, said the ad is not being aired in China, where the car is not on sale.

The video is easily accessible on YouTube and has generated angry comments on the internet and in some of the more sensational corners of the entirely state-controlled Chinese media.

Gere has been vilified in China for criticising Beijing’s human rights records and policies toward Tibet, which Chinese communist troops occupied in 1951. He is also a close supporter and student of the region’s exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who Beijing says is a separatist.

Fiat now joins a long list of foreign companies that apologised for or removed advertisements due to complaints they offended China’s Communist government or the Chinese public.

Late in May, French fashion house Christian Dior dropped Sharon Stone from its Chinese advertisements and released a statement from the actress apologising for saying the devastating earthquake that struck China may have been “karma” for its treatment of Tibet.—Sapa-AP

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