Beverly Hills declares war on Brunei

City council attacks Brunei over penal code, saying it will petition State Department to issue condemnation of laws.

Celebrities and activists have protested against the penal code, saying they will boycott hotels [AFP]

Beverly Hills city council has condemned the government of Brunei for introducing new laws that impose harsh penalties, including death by stoning for homosexuality and adultery, and called on it to either change its laws or sell two of its most famous hotels.

The council unanimously passed on Tuesday a resolution criticising Brunei, which has drawn fire for a controversial penal code announced last month. Brunei owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, two properties in its Dorchester Collection.

The resolution will be delivered to the US State Department, asking that the government take “appropriate action” to condemn Brunei’s policies.

On Wednesday, Mayor Lili Bosse said: “I brought this resolution forward because of my own and the Beverly Hills community’s fierce reaction to the horrific laws and punishments in Brunei. These laws are shocking, inhumane and must be met with a strong statement of support for human rights of the people of Brunei.”

Earlier in the week celebrities, including talkshow hosts Ellen Degeneres and Jay Leno, called for the hotels to be boycotted. Organisations such as The Hollywood Reporter and Teen Line have also changed venues for their upcoming events, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bosse said: “It is extremely important that we separate out the hotel from the ownership. I am not calling for a City-sanctioned boycott. I feel that each individual and group should make their own decision and I personally will not be attending any events at the hotel until this issue is resolved.”

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a news briefing that concerns had been “privately” relayed to the government of Brunei. She said the State Department would not be boycotting hotels in the Dorchester Collection.

“It’s our understanding that the boycott specifically targets the Dorchester Collection of hotels, which has issued a statement that it does not tolerate any forms of discrimination of any kind. As such, the State Department has no specific restrictions prohibiting an employee from staying in a Dorchester hotel.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Beverly Hills Hotel employs about 600 people and the Hotel Bel-Air about 400. The Beverly Hills Hotel pays about $7m in bed taxes and $4m in city taxes annually. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies