By Agence France-Presse
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt cancelled a fundraising event at the Brunei-owned luxury Dorchester Hotel in London, sources said Wednesday, after the sultanate adopted the death penalty for gay sex.
Hunt called off the fundraiser for the governing Conservative Party after the southeast Asian country introduced the measure among several harsh new sharia laws, a government source said.
The event, at which Hunt was due to speak, had been set to take place on April 2.
The Times newspaper reported that the fundraiser is understood to have been rearranged for another venue in the coming weeks.
“It’s true,” a government source said when asked to confirm The Times’ story.
A Conservative source said: “We’ve made clear to Brunei through every available channel that allowing the stoning of gay people is totally against modern values.
“At a time when we are seeking answers it just wouldn’t have been right to be seen to condone a business as usual approach.”
The body which represents rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales said Wednesday it was moving its annual bravery awards away from the hotel.
The Police Federation’s chairman John Apter said: “The PFEW and policing as a whole would not allow us to be associated with such a regime.
“Doing nothing was not an option. An alternative venue has been identified and I will make sure the Bravery Awards are as special as they have always been. This is the right decision.”
Hundreds of anti-discrimination demonstrators massed outside the hotel on Saturday.
Several hundred people gathered, many armed with rainbow flags, placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out.
A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island — ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — came fully into force last Wednesday after several years of delay.
It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups, with actor George Clooney and pop star Elton John calling for Brunei-owned hotels to be boycotted.
Britain’s government has described the new laws, which include stoning to death for gay sex and adultery, and the amputation of hands and feet for thieves, as “a backward step”.
The Dorchester Collection group has said in a statement: “We understand people’s anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should be played out in our hotels.”