HOLLYWOOD stars are boycotting one of the most famous hotels in the world in protest against the introduction of a harsh Islamic penal code by Brunei’s government.
The iconic pink Beverly Hills Hotel – where most of the movie Pretty Woman was filmed – is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, whose government last week embraced sharia law, making adultery, abortion and same-sex relationships serious offences punishable by flogging and stoning.
A growing number of Hollywood groups have relocated events traditionally held at the venue in protest.
Comedians Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson have been the most prominent figures to advocate shunning the hotel and its bungalows, a favourite haunt for the Hollywood elite since it opened a century ago.
On Tuesday night, Beverly Hills city officials passed a unanimous resolution calling for the small south-east Asian nation to either change its laws or divest its ownership of the hotel.
Emotions were high in the packed council chambers as scores of employees and residents expressed opposition to human rights abuses, support for the famous property and noted its importance in terms of local employment.
Badrul Chowdhury, a waiter at the hotel for 14 years, said Brunei was far removed from the lives of staff. He said: “We work. We take care of our families.”
Beverly Hills council members were “adding their voice” to international outrage, a spokeswoman said.
Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 run by the sultan, will punish offences such as sodomy and adultery with the death penalty, including by stoning. The US government was largely silent on the issue until Tuesday, when the state department said the ambassador to Brunei, Daniel Shields, had privately relayed concerns to the government there about the law.
In the past few days, organisations have cancelled events at the hotel, including the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s annual Night Before the Oscars charity event and the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Global Women’s Rights Awards.
Gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called on the hotel’s owner to stop promoting special services at the hotel for same-sex weddings, now legal in California.
President Chad Griffin said: “This is the height of hypocrisy, and we must ensure that profits from LGBT weddings in the US stop going to a regime that could soon start executing its LGBT citizens.”
Virgin group founder Sir Richard tweeted on Saturday that his employees and family would not stay at the luxury hotel chain “until the Sultan abides by basic human rights”.