Christian Bale involved in scuffle while trying to visit Chinese activist

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Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale has been in China promoting his new film The Flowers of War, directed by Zhang Yimou, about the 1937 invasion of Nanjing by the Japanese. While filming the movie, Bale learned about the plight of blind Chinese activist and self-taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who's been under house arrest and heavily guarded since finishing a four-year prison sentence for damaging property and disrupting traffic. Authorities apparently had it in for Guangcheng, after he documented forced late-term abortions, sterilizations, and other abuses by authorities attempting to meet population-control goals.

So, on Thursday, Bale, along with a crew from CNN, traveled eight hours from Beijing to Dongshigu village, in eastern Shandong province, where Guangcheng is being held, though technically "free." As Bale told CNN, "What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand, and say what an inspiration he is." But Bale never got the chance. Security guards, apparently not recognizing Batman without the mask, punched and shoved Bale and CNN crew members, forbidding them to pass. They also tried to snatch a small video camera Bale was carrying. Bale repeatedly asked, "Why can I not visit this free man?," but this time didn't throw any temper tantrums.

Bale and the news crew left, but were followed for about forty minutes by a gray minivan containing some of the thugs. Some will probably view Bale's attempted visit as a noble, humanitarian gesture, while others will say, "Why couldn't you mind your own business, Christian?" Either way, the story has drawn strong — and mostly positive — interest on Twitter and its Chinese equivalent, Weibo. But having Bale's name associated with such a politically sensitive issue could pose some problems for The Flowers of War, which opens in China on Friday, and in the U.S. next week. Said Bale:

"I'm not brave doing this. The local people who are standing up to the authorities, who are visiting Chen and his family and getting beaten or detained, I want to support them."