George Clooney has called for a boycott of nine luxury properties owned by the Sultan of Brunei, in a bid to end the country’s draconian new laws making homosexuality and adultery punishable by death.
As of this month, anyone proven to have had gay sex or committed adultery in Brunei will be sentenced to death by stoning.
These horrific new laws were first announced in 2014 but have only just been introduced to the small country in southeast Asia. The nation is home to just 450,000 people but possesses an enormously wealthy economy courtesy of its rich reserves of oil and gas.
Human rights organisations condemned the appalling new legislation, demanding that Brunei overturn the decision immediately. But the government has stood by its new laws.
Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei and also its Prime Minister said in a statement that the country’s government “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”
For many, this is simply not good enough. Those protesting the laws include George Clooney, who has called on everyone to boycott the nine luxury hotels around the world owned by the Sultan of Brunei.
These hotels are The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park in the UK, Los Angeles’ The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris, Hotel Eden in Rome and Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.
“This April 3rd will hold its own place in history,” Clooney wrote in a powerful column for Deadline. “On this particular April 3rd the nation of Brunei will begin stoning and whipping to death any of its citizens that are proved to be gay. Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone.”
Clooney noted that despite Brunei’s small size, it is the fifth richest country in the world because of its oil reserves. “Good for them,” Clooney writes. “Of course, they haven’t had an election since 1962 and have adopted the most extreme version of Sharia law so, not so good for them.”
Clooney has decided to put his own money where his mouth is, and he will no longer be staying in any of the Sultan of Brunei’s hotels and will not attend events, meetings or even eat at these locations, either. Joining him in the boycott are a host of famous names including Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and Luke Evans.
“They’re nice hotels,” Clooney notes. He’s stayed in many of them, he adds, some very recently. “The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”
He continued: “Are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”
Representatives for the Dorchester Collection released a statement declaring that they do “not tolerate any form of discrimination.” “Dorchester Collection’s Code emphasises equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees. Inclusion and diversity remain core beliefs.”
This isn’t the first time that celebrities have advocated for boycotts of the Sultan of Brunei’s hotel portfolio. Back in 2014 a number of A-listers, including Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, Stella McCartney, Stephen Fry and Kim Kardashian – who cancelled her baby shower that was slated to be held at the Beverly Hills Hotel – protested the Sultan of Brunei’s decision to introduce Sharia law to his nation.
The blacklisting lasted for a few months, but as celebrities including the Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Russell Crowe broke the ban, it petered out. The “white heat of outrage” moved on, as Clooney writes for Deadline, to the “hundred other reasons to be outraged”.
Clooney does not want the same thing to happen again. “It’s up to each of us what we want to do,” he wrote.