Fiat won't pull ad with Richard Gere in Tibet

Chinese in Italy offended by commercial

ROME -- Italian carmaker Fiat said Wednesday that it will not pull a television ad that features actor Richard Gere driving a car to Tibet, even though it has sparked some criticism from Italy-based Chinese diplomats who say the ad has political overtones.

Fiat issued a statement saying that the casting of Gere -- a Buddhist who has been an outspoken advocate of Tibetan independence -- was not a political choice. The company said it will continue to run the ad for the Lancia Delta in Italy and in other European countries as the car is released there.

There are no plans to run the ad in China, where the Lancia Delta is not sold.

In the 45-second ad, Gere gets into a Lancia Delta in Hollywood and drives on a mountain path that ends in a snow-filled valley in the Himalayas, where he meets a group of young Buddhist monks. The tagline reads: "The power to be different."

Gere is a controversial figure in China, after repeated criticisms for the country's human rights record in Tibet.
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