The actor, who received the festival’s Crystal Globe for outstanding contribution to world cinema on Friday, was addressing a question regarding Chinese control of Tibet, which China has occupied since an invasion in 1950.
Gere is a follower of the Dalai Lama, the India-based spiritual leader of Tibet, and an advocate for the liberation of Tibet. He disputed a suggestion from a journalist that he was not welcome in China. “I am welcomed by the Chinese people, but not by the Chinese government. I haven’t been able to (visit China) since 1993. But you guys can understand that. The Czech Republic understands Communism very well,” he said.
Gere rejected the suggestion that there were negotiations going on behind the scenes that would lead to an improvement in relations between the Tibetan Buddhists in exile and the Chinese government.
He was asked what would happen when the Dalai Lama, who is 80 years old on July 6, dies and the Tibetan Buddhists sought out the next Dalai Lama. Gere referred to an episode in Tibetan history when the Panchen Lama, the second-highest Tibetan lama, spoke out against the Chinese treatment of Tibetans in 1989, and died in “mysterious” circumstances soon thereafter. When the Panchen Lama’s successor, a 6-year-old boy, was named by the Tibetan Buddhists, he was “kidnapped” by the Chinese Communist authorities, Gere said, and “has not been seen since.” The Chinese then selected their own Panchen Lama, whom the Tibetans regard as “bogus,” Gere said. This scenario could be repeated when the Dalai Lama dies, Gere claimed.
“There is a fear — which is based in reality — that the Chinese will try to co-opt the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. In fact the Chinese Communist Party has said that it is only up to the Chinese to decide who the Dalai Lama will incarnate as,” he said. “So there is a drama going on now about who will decide who is the next Dalai Lama.”
He continued: “The Dalai Lama has said: ‘Well, first of all, he is not going to incarnate inside of China if it is still controlled by the Chinese Communists.’ In any event it is up to him where he, and how he incarnates, not the Chinese Communists, so there is this absurd line of reasoning and declarations from the Communist Party.”
Gere added that the Czechs, because of their experience of living under Communism, could identify with such “absurdity.” “You have such experience with the absurdities of a Communist party, so you’ll understand the position of the Tibetans quite well. It will change eventually as it changed here, and there will be a Prague Spring in Tibet,” he said, referring to the anti-communist uprising in Czechoslovakia in 1968, that was unsuccessful, and the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which ended communist rule in the country. “Things will change,” Gere said. “We have to be patient and we have to keep Tibetan culture alive in the meantime, because the Chinese are doing their best to completely eradicate it.”