Gere has long been a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities for his support for an independent Tibet and his public friendship with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported today that Gere had been arrested while trying to enter Tibet disguised as a monk.
“China has police records going back thousands of years,” said police spokeswoman Shan Li in Beijing. “Our files show Mr. Gere stole a horse in the Sichuan province in the year 1377. Mr. Gere was incarnated as a Chinese peasant at the time. Evidently he stole the horse to eat it.”
“We are aware Mr. Gere is a practicing Buddhist. As such we expect him to take responsibility for what he has done in his previous life,” said Shan Li.
In Los Angeles, Gere’s lawyer Bruce Cooper dismissed the case as baseless. “Richard Gere does not eat horses,” said Cooper. “And while it is true that Richard Gere is a practicing Buddhist who believes he has lived many lives, nobody has ever been put on trial for something they allegedly did in a previous life, be they Buddhist or not.”
Tibet watchers said the case appeared to be politically motivated, with China sending a signal that trespassing Western celebrities will not be tolerated in Tibet.
After behind-the-scenes intervention by the US Embassy, Richard Gere pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of stealing a pig, for which he was fined and deported from Tibet.