The actor Christian Bale was assaulted by government-backed guards on Thursday when he tried to visit a blind lawyer who has been illegally confined to his home in eastern Shandong Province. Christian Bale and his wife Sibi were escorted into a film premiere of “Flowers of War” in Beijing on Dec. 12. The lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, has emerged as a cause célèbre among the country’s rights advocates, dozens of whom have been similarly roughed up when they tried to break through the cordon that local officials have placed around Mr. Chen’s village.
The encounter, captured by a CNN camera crew who accompanied him on the eight-hour drive from Beijing to Dongshigu village, promises to become a public relations debacle for China, which has been eagerly promoting Mr. Bale’s latest movie, “The Flowers of War,” which premiered last Sunday at the one of the capital’s most important government buildings. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the movie was partly financed by loans from a state-owned bank and it is the country’s foreign film submission for the Academy Awards. At $94 million, it is also said to be the most expensive Chinese-made film ever. Officials here have expressed hope that it might earn China its first Oscar. The footage of Mr. Bale’s attempted visit is dramatic. In it, he is seen pleading with the men who guard Dongshigu’s entry points and then retreating as they push and punch him. “Why can I not visit this free man?” he asks repeatedly. The men, dressed in thick green winter coats respond with shouts of “Go away.” Even after they have retreated into their car, the group, which included a translator, was chased for 40 minutes by men in a gray van. “What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is,” Mr. Bale said.
In recent months, scores of Chinese activists have had similar experiences, although some have endured far more violence, sometimes at the hands of uniformed police who the victims had called for assistance. None of the journalists, diplomats or rights lawyers who have made the journey to Dongshigu have succeeded in meeting Mr. Chen, 40, who has been imprisoned in his home, along with his wife and child, since his release from prison in September 2010.
The Flowers of War Official US Trailer
Christian Bale Roughed Up in China