"We're not going to pretend this is a new, cuddly Communist Chinese government we have here. They haven't proven themselves yet," Gere said, following a Washington, D.C. screening of his new film Red Corner, which portrays an American executive framed for murder by corrupt Beijing officials. "We've had a president who has been neither clear nor firm on China's human rights [stance] since the very beginning and that waffling...has send a message of weakness."
The Red Corner star plans to stage a "State-less dinner" next Wednesday in opposition to the official State dinner welcoming Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Gere, who has ripped China in the past over alleged human-rights violations, particularly in his beloved Tibet, was denied a visa to enter the country to film scenes for the movie.
Red Corner costar Bai Ling is a former Tiananmen Square protester who says she is afraid to return to China, where her parents still live. "I think I'm doing the right thing. A lot of people in China, we're being silenced. We need to end it. Why can't we tell the truth? What are we afraid of?" the actress stated to USA Today.
Her remarks came at the Tuesday night New York premiere, where the audience included Julia Roberts and Gere's new companion, Law and Order star Carey Lowell.
Henry Kissinger, however, canceled, causing Gere to dis the former statesman. "Politically he's on another planet. He's paid by the Chinese, and he's paid by Disney. He's about blocs of power, not about people," Gere said. Kissinger was recently hired by Disney as an adviser on China. The Mouse House wants to make sure Martin Scorsese's new Kundun, which depicts the Chinese invasion of Tibet and exile of the Dalai Lama, doesn't ruffle feathers in Beijing.
Gere says of Kundun: "I think it's the best picture Scorsese has ever made, and he's made great movies. I cried for two hours. Thirty seconds into the movie, I started crying and didn't stop." Gere has not seen Brad Pitt's latest, Seven Years in Tibet, though, and could not offer a review.
Political or not, none of the Hollywood fare would likely appeal to President Jiang. His tastes reportedly run to musicals, which he has been watching in order to brush up on his English for this trip. He's also a big Elvis Presley fan--Love Me Tender was the song he courted his wife by.