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Politically minded stars split on skipping Beijing Olympics

  • Story Highlights
  • Black Eyed Peas front man says boycotting Beijing Olympics is a mistake
  • Mia Farrow says boycotting the games would send a strong message to China
  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not attend opening ceremonies
  • U.S. House of Representatives is urging China to end its crackdown on Tibet
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(CNN) -- Hip-hop performer will.i.am is no stranger to the political arena -- having spearheaded the Internet-favorite "Yes We Can" music video in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Now he's taking a stance in opposition to some of his fellow performers. The Black Eyed Peas front man says that staying away from the Beijing Olympics because of China's human rights record and crackdown on protesters in Tibet is a mistake.

"I feel the same passion on the injustice that's happening in Tibet and wanting to take a stand," said the performer, whose group plans to perform in China next month. "But then, at the same time ... you could stay home and hold picket signs or you could go there and influence them."

Since the announcement that Beijing would be host of the games, human rights activists have decried the International Olympic Committee's decision.

They say the games will provide an international public-relations platform for a Chinese government that denies its citizens basic human rights and has enforced a crackdown in Tibet, which lost its independence to China in 1951, over anti-Beijing demonstrations there.

Many high-profile entertainers have said they will not support the Olympics in protest of China's record. Actress and longtime political activist Mia Farrow said boycotting the Beijing games would send a strong message to China's government.

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"No one wants to hurt the athletes," she said. "But to boycott the opening ceremonies -- yes. It's up to us as human beings to make it clear what the right thing is."

Richard Gere, who opposes China's handling of Tibet, has appeared at demonstrations and favors a boycott.

Money/Fortune reported Steven Spielberg resigned as an artistic adviser to the summer games because of China's economic, political and military ties to the Sudan.

A number of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have said they will not attend the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

A handful of senators, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, sent President Bush a letter urging him not to attend the opening ceremonies, saying that "if the Chinese government is ever to treat its people with basic human rights, it must be sent a bold and clear message."

Bush has said he will attend the Olympics, but has not committed to attending the opening ceremonies.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging China to end its crackdown on Tibet and free nonviolent protesters imprisoned there.

Meanwhile, will.i.am and others argue that boycotting the ceremony and the games only hurts Chinese citizens, who have no control over their leaders. The Grammy-winning artist also said he senses a whiff of hypocrisy in some calls for staying away from the games.

George Clooney, in a widely reported interview with Spain's el Paris newspaper, said that "it seems excessive to boycott the games because China does business in Darfur."

"America is talking out of both sides of its mouth," will.i.am said. "I know that everything I buy in America says 'Made in China' on it. So for me to just say, 'Yeah, that's right, boycott China' ... you're talking out of both sides of your mouth."

CNN's Karen Winter contributed to this report.

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