Richard Branson Latest to Encourage Boycott of Beverly Hills Hotel

1:02 PM PST 05/04/2014 by THR Staff, The Associated Press
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Richard Branson

"No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights," the mogul wrote.

The burgeoning boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel has added a number of high-profile organizations and industry names as awareness builds that the owner of the luxury hotel is the Sultan of Brunei. 

Virgin Group mogul Richard Branson became the latest to lend his name to the effort. "No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday. Virgin counts over 50,000 employees worldwide across a range of business operations, according to the company's website.

The Beverly Hills Hotel, along with the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, belongs to the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah through the Brunei Investment Agency. 

The protests are in response to Bolkiah's efforts to institute a new criminal law in the Southeast Asian nation of Brunei. 

On Thursday, the tiny Southeast Asian nation began phasing in a version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about one-third of the 440,000 people in the oil-rich country.

STORY: Who in Hollywood Will Boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel?

Bolkiah has introduced the law as a "great achievement" for Brunei.

From Thursday, Brunei citizens can be fined or jailed by Islamic courts for offenses like not performing Friday prayers, pregnancy out of wedlock, propagating other religions and indecent behavior. More severe punishments -- flogging, amputation of limbs and stoning --for offenses such as theft, adultery and sodomy will be introduced in phases over the next two years.

The law in Brunei has inspired a wave of protests aimed at the Beverly Hills Hotel. On Sunday, the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs pledged to move its awards event for the Impact Awards from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another location.

“[W]e cannot, in good conscience, support an entity that is controlled by an individual whose beliefs are in direct contradiction to ours," said the group's executive director, Keishia Kemp.

The announcement follows a call from the Human Rights Campaign on Friday that entreated organizations to move their events to hotels that "aren't owned by foreign governments and leaders that allow for the execution of its LGBT citizens."

On April 30, the Feminist Majority Foundation similarly moved its Jay Leno co-chaired Global Women's Rights Awards in protest. And on April 26, a small group protested at the Beverly Hills Hotel location to raise awareness. 

Sharon Osbourne, Ellen DeGeneres, Brian Atwood and Peter Som are among those in the industry who have used social media to protest. 

"We continue to abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind," a spokesperson from the Beverly Hills Hotel previously said in a statement to THR. "The laws that exist in other countries outside of where Dorchester Collection operates do not affect the policies that govern how we run our hotels."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this article. 

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