The actor Christian Bale says he was “roughed up” by Chinese authorities when he tried to visit human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng.
The incident was caught on camera by a CNN crew that was accompanying him on the trip. Here’s the video:
And here’s The New York Times‘ description of it:
“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.”
Chen has been imprisoned in his home since Sept. 2010. The BBC reports the activist was “imprisoned after alleging the authorities had carried out forced abortions under the country’s one-child policy.”
In a subsequent interview with CNN, Bale said the incident shows that the Chinese government’s “attitude toward their own citizens is disgusting.”
But is there more to the story? The Christian Science Monitor wonders quite loudly if Bale’s visit was a stunt to blunt criticism of his newest film. The paper reports:
“Mr. Bale is in China to promote his latest movie The Flowers of War, about the brutal Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937, which some critics have panned as Chinese propaganda. His successful televised bid to draw world attention to the illegal detention of one of the sharpest thorns in the Chinese government’s side has certainly undercut such criticism.
“Bale has also rejected accusations that by starring in “The Flowers of War,” the most expensive film ever made in China and directed by Zhang Yimou who choreographed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, he had contributed to a nationalist Chinese demonization of the Japanese.
“‘That would be a bit of a kneejerk reaction,’ he told reporters at the premiere in Beijing earlier this week.”