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‘Batman’ star Bale tries to visit China activist
BEIJING (AP) - “Batman” star Christian Bale, in the midst of promoting a film he made in China that some critics have called propaganda, was physically stopped by government-backed guards from visiting a blind activist living under house arrest _ with a CNN crew in tow to record the scuffle.
CNN posted footage of the confrontation on its website Friday.
The run-in and publicity is likely to cause discomfort in China's government-backed film industry, which hopes Bale’s movie “The Flowers of War” will be a creative success at home and abroad. The star’s actions are sure to focus attention on the plight of Chen Guangcheng, guarded around the clock by burly, aggressive security men who have blocked dozens of reporters and fellow activists trying to see him in the past.
Bale was to leave China on Friday and his representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bale, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for last year’s “The Fighter,” traveled Thursday with a crew from CNN to the village in eastern China where Chen, the blind lawyer, lives with his family in complete isolation.
They were stopped at the entrance to Dongshigu village in Shandong province by unidentified men.
The video footage shows Bale asking to see Chen, with a CNN producer providing interpretation, but being ordered by one of the guards to leave. He then asked why he was unable to pass through. The guards responded by trying to grab or punch a small video camera Bale was carrying.
“What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is,” Bale was quoted as saying by CNN.
“Chen Guangcheng is a newsworthy figure … and as such it is in the interest of CNN’s global viewers to hear from him,” CNN said in a statement. “Mr. Bale reached out to CNN and invited us to join him on his journey to visit Chen.”
Chen, a self-taught lawyer who was blinded by a fever in infancy, angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses by overzealous authorities trying to meet population control goals in his rural community. He was imprisoned for allegedly instigating an attack on government offices and organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic, charges his supporters say were fabricated.
Although now officially free under the law, he has been confined to his home in the village eight hours’ drive from Beijing and subjected to periodic beatings and other abuse, activists say.
While Bale’s visit focuses new attention on Chen’s case, CNN’s role raises questions about activism and advocacy among reporters, said David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project website at the University of Hong Kong.
“It made me instantly uncomfortable, wondering how it all came together. It raises questions about where the lines are drawn,” Bandurski said.
By John R. Bolton
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