On a special episode of The Buck Stops Here , from the Kalachakra at Bodh Gaya, Hollywood superstar Richard Gere says, "China is the largest hypocrisy in the world."
He adds, "China will have to kill all Tibetans to destroy their culture."
Here's the full transcript of Mr Gere's interview to NDTV.
NDTV: Richard, you have been one of the most prominent and also one of the most steadfast, not just follower of The Dalai Lama, but also a supporter and advocate on the Tibetan Cause. But are you beginning to worry? Because this is a year when The Dalai Lama has decided to not take a political role. There's been an election; they now have a Prime Minister in Exile. But a lot of people think this is a campaign and an issue that can't outlast The Dalai Lama, does that worry you?
Richard Gere: Well I think that is one of the reasons that His Holiness also says is a transition. He is a very skillful person and his motivation, I saw you interviewing him, was a wonderful interview.
Richard Gere: His Holiness's motivation is impeccable; there is nothing that he does for himself. Everything is motivated for the well and goodness of everyone else and especially his people in Tibet. If it is so centered around him obviously it will be chaos after he leaves. This movement towards a true democracy is very important. And the Tibetan Prime Minister Lopsang Sangay is a very capable and highly capable man to lead them in this process.
NDTV: It's been an year that the world has looked at these immolations, we have all seen these dreadful stories coming from inside Tibet about monks immolating themselves, some holding The Dalai Lama's photograph in their hand. It's a break from the very benign, gentle, non-violent protest that the Tibet Cause has been all these years. Where do you stand philosophically on these immolation's?
Richard Gere: These are very complex issues. But we were just talking about motivation; it all really comes down to motivation. 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? 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. I think they 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, around Buddhism, 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. We have seen this all over the world. These things that are part of people deep in their hearts, they never go away. They will always emerge, and the Chinese have really misgauged this. So no matter how many roads they 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. They would have to kill every Tibetan to change it and they are not going to do that. What's so mystifying to me, and most people, who have been following this a long time, is that things could change so radically if the Chinese would see clearly what the situation is. They can control Tibet. This is what we have been saying since twenty or thirty years now. They can run Tibet in terms of being part of China, that the issue to him is the preservation of the people, the heart of the people, which are their religion and their culture.
NDTV: Do they let you into China at all?
Richard Gere: They did in '93, not since then.
NDTV: And how did that happen?
Richard Gere: This is a long story, but they had invited me. I mean I have been very vocal about this for a very long time and I get this invitation to go to, essentially these Chinese Academy Awards, which is, I think, called the Golden Rooster Awards, and I was very skeptical of this, why would they be inviting me to this? But I checked up with people who knew about this this, and they said look it's too important, too high profile, they wouldn't do anything to you and I thought they would just kill me if I go. So I did go, but I insisted on coming in with one of my teachers who hadn't been there since I think 1959.
NDTV: And did they let you go?
Richard Gere: There was a big drama; negotiations went on, and eventually yes, I did go to China, and yes we did go in to Tibet. And what I saw there was a deep and profound level of misery and sadness in Tibet and that was only in '93, and it has only gotten worse since then.
NDTV: I read somewhere that Fiat the car company, for which you did an
advertisement, had to apologize to China because they had you driving
this car to the Potala palace.
Richard Gere: It's a lovely ad.
NDTV: It was a lovely ad
Richard Gere: I said you're sure you want to do this? Because I know they did business in China, and they said yes, we feel strongly about this.
NDTV: And then they ended up having to say sorry, this is not our political view.
Richard Gere: I didn't hear that.
NDTV: Yes, I read that, I don't know whether it is true but I did read it and that just makes me wonder. I was also asking the Dalai Lama about the sheer economic muscle of China, does this sometimes make it an impossible battle?
Richard Gere: No, it doesn't make it impossible but of course it is challenging, and it challenges all of us. Are we more interested in money or are we more interested in the truth? And the Chinese themselves have to look at themselves that way. I mean they have enormous turmoil, when artists are being thrown in jail, when lawyers are being thrown in jail, human rights workers are being thrown in jail, when local people are tired of their land being taken away and corruption. If these things continue in that society, they are not going to have people other than having the security system, which is employing everyone to look at each other. I mean this is what happened to the Soviet Union, which happened to all these totalitarian states. 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.
NDTV: How do you see the response of countries among the world including the USA, because you know, one senses that there is a kind of caution now, as different countries try to also evolve parallel relationships with Beijing and that's real politic. As countries believe that this Cause may have a lot of moral right on its side, they also have strategic relationships ongoing, with China. Do you now see a diminished global support for this Cause? Do you worry about that?
Richard Gere: No, because it's a deep support, it's not momentary. I've been living with this for three decades now and it doesn't matter in the US, it doesn't matter if it's Republicans or Democrats who control. It's unanimous, the resolutions about Tibet. We have stood up with resolutions on the table that Tibet is, that the sense of the Congress is that Tibet is an occupied country. There are still statutes in the UN that it's an occupied country. But it's irrelevant, look at the world that we live in today and you have to think in terms of the long run, especially if you are committed to non-violence. Non-violence does not happen quickly. It happens over decades and for the Tibetans it's been 60 years now, so it may be 70 or 80 years or maybe a hundred years. But it won't go away unless the Chinese kill every single Tibetan and I don't think that they are capable of that.
But to go back to what you are talking about, there's no one in the Tibet movement that wants to destroy China or hurt the Chinese. Now the ideas that fuel the suffering of other people and Chinese people, yes, we want to change those. The Communist ideals that lead to the abusive people is hypocrisy and the highest possible level. I would be embarrassed if I were a Chinese politician to say the things that they are forced to say, knowing that they are not true.
As people become more well off, obviously the need of education becomes higher and that is the great common denominator on this planet, that is education.
NDTV: What is it you think about this cause and Buddhism, but both I mean, somewhere when it comes to The Dalai Lama, though he has now given up his political role?
Richard Gere: I want to clarify something His Holiness says. I think he is half kidding when he says it, he says that he is retired, doesn't mean that he stops. That means he's made a transition into more specifically the spiritual world. But this is the man who works every day for 20 hours. I mean literally works, besides his own spiritual practice. Now do you think that anything goes on in this community that he doesn't know about or has an involvement? Of course, highly motivated person, so this idea of being retired or semi-retired is a bit of a joke.
NDTV: What is it about him that has drawn so many people from across the world, people like yourself, who have now spent 10 days here in Bodhgaya. What is it? Is it because the cynics have suggested, it's a kind of escape that people seek? The Dalai Lama himself has joked that he has kind of become a wish fulfiller for people across the world, but there are something magnetic about him.
Richard Gere: Well he is actually a wish fulfiller, in the deeper sense, not in terms if you want a car, you get a car, but if you are seeking happiness this is the man who understand and has internalized the words of the Buddha. Now Buddha didn't say that I am going to buy a magic wand and make you happy, he said 'I'll give you the tools to do the work'. When you were talking before to His Holiness, he was talking about individual responsibilities and one of the ideas of a true democracy are individual responsibilities. A community can only survive if each member has personal responsibilities. Now from the Buddhist point of view it's also universal responsibility, not just for yourself but everyone else. So that's why we are all drawn to this. Not to get the magic wand.
NDTV: What was the moment for you when you became politically engaged with this and not just as a believer of the faith, but also politically engaged with this Cause? Was it meeting The Dalai Lama that cemented it for you?
Richard Gere: Well I know he's been a political person. You can't live on this planet and not be involved with what's happening in your own country or another country. I remember very clearly, there was a point, actually in Bodhgaya in 1986, it was the first time I came here and was on my way to the train here. It wasn't easy to get here in the old days, believe me. Like in Dharamshala, it wasn't easy. I was on my way and an attendant of His Holiness came to get me and said he would like to speak to me. I said of course, and I was well aware of the situation by then, not everyone knew it. And he said look, I had done several things at that point for the Tibetans, but he said this is a dire situation for us and we need to rely on the kindness of our friends around the world and specially our foreign friends, and said will you help us? And I said of course.
NDTV: What do you feel when a country like South Africa denies him a visa?
Richard Gere: I spoke to Bishop Tutu about this, he was outraged, the country has Nelson Mandela, but this is also typical. In the early days of that movement China was one of their supporters and I know that they have a lot of deals now with the People's Republic Of China, and for whatever reason they decided they did not want to challenge those deals. For someone like Archbishop Tutu who is on the same level as The Dalai Lama, to have his 80th birthday and not allow his friend, another Nobel Peace Prize Winner, enjoy it with him is one of the saddest days of his life. But as His Holiness said it ended up being more publicity around the fact that Chinese didn't let it happen in a foreign country. it isn't their country.
NDTV: Is it true that you have named your son, partially after a Tibetan word, Jigme is a part of his name?
Richard Gere: Well, His Holiness gave him that name.
NDTV: Let me ask you in the end, a lot of people are concerned that this has been a movement that remained non-violent because of The Dalai Lama and his belief, but there is the younger generation of Tibet that is restless, it wants a more extreme position, not necessarily the middle path that has been advocated by The Dalai Lama. Do you worry that this is the movement that is now inflammable, it's at a very critical juncture and it could become violent?
Richard Gere: Well, yes of course. We have been saying this for decades. Just from the same logical point of view, forget the emotions of the situation. If the Chinese want to make a deal on this situation, do it while The Dalai Lama is here because he speaks for the people. It's unlikely that we will have a figure as dominant as him, not just in the Tibetan society, but on the planet, probably, in the next 100 years I guess. He is an extra ordinary person. Those of us who have lived in this lifetime will tell their children, grandchildren their great grandchildren that we met such a person. This is an amazing thing, for you to spend an hour with His Holiness is an amazing thing, to be in the same time and place with such a creature.
NDTV: Lovely to meet you.
Richard Gere: Thank you