Fiat apologizes to China for TV ad for new car

MILAN - Italian car maker Fiat has apologized to China over a television commercial featuring Hollywood actor Richard Gere and a reference to Tibet.

China is a huge market for car makers which, like other multinational companies, go out of their way to avoid upsetting the country's sensibilities about certain issues out of fear of reprisals such as a boycott of their products.

Tibet has become a focal point for protests against China's rule over the mountainous province ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.

"Fiat ... has recently been advised that certain advertising ... could disturb the sensibility of the people within China," the company said in a statement on Friday.

"Fiat Group extends its apologies to the Government of the People's Republic of China and to the Chinese people."

The company made the apology after Chinese media reported on the commercial but a spokesman said the ad would not be pulled.

China has come under criticism from human rights activists including Gere for the way it has handled violent unrest in Tibet, which seeks autonomy from the country.

Gere is a high-profile supporter of the Tibetan cause with close ties to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader viewed by China as a traitor and instigator of the unrest.


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