Kerpow! Batman tussles with guards in bid to visit activist

British actor Christian Bale manhandled at checkpoint during film promotion tour

Los Angeles

There was no Hollywood ending when Christian Bale got into a battered van, drove eight hours into the Chinese countryside, and boldly attempted to peer behind the country's version of the iron curtain.

Instead, the Batman star found himself pushed, roughed up and sent on his way by plainclothes policemen anxious to prevent him paying homage to a local human rights activist.

Bale, who is in China to promote his new film, The Flowers of War, had taken a CNN television crew to the home of Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer who has been under house arrest since his release from prison last year.

Video of the attempted morale-boosting visit shows Bale, through an interpreter, asking guards to let him on to the property. They decline, refusing to identify themselves or offer an explanation.

The Welsh-born actor responds by asking: "Why can't I visit this free man?" He gets no response, save for the odd shove. As they frogmarch him away, the burly security team sporadically attempt to grab cameras from his colleagues.

"All I really wanted to do was to shake the man's hand, and say thank you, and tell him what an inspiration he is," he complains during footage of his retreat.

The incident, which was widely shared on the internet yesterday, leaves the Chinese authorities with a tricky public relations problem. The Flowers of War, about the Rape of Nanking in 1937, is jointly financed by US producers and the state-owned Bank of China. It has been proudly promoted by the Chinese government. Filmed partly in English and partly in Chinese, it is the country's official entry for best Foreign Language Film at February's Oscars.

On paper, it is supposed to showcase the potentially lucrative nature of collaborations between the film industries of the two countries. By securing local funding, Hollywood studios can bypass laws which at present allow them to import just 20 overseas films a year into Chinese cinemas.

But even before this week's incident, controversy was already swirling around The Flowers of War. An adaptation of the novel The 13 Women of Nanjing by Yan Geling, it offers a condemnatory portrayal of the Japanese, and on the red carpet at the film's premiere, Bale was forced to grapple with questions about whether it represents pro-Chinese propaganda.

His decision to pay a visit to Mr Chen offers a rebuttal to those accusations – perhaps his intention. A blind former masseur and self-taught lawyer, Mr Chen has long advocated against forced abortions under China's one-child policy.

In 2006, Mr Chen was sentenced to four years in prison for disrupting traffic during a protest. Since his release, he has been confined to his home and prevented from receiving visitors.

Bale, an occasionally volatile former child star who struck fame in Empire of the Sun and won an Oscar last year for The Fighter, insisted he was "not being brave" by grappling with the authorities. "The local people who are trying to visit Chen, and being beaten up and detained for it, you know, I want to support what they're doing. It doesn't come naturally to me, but this was just a situation when I said I can't look the other way."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory