Chinese Foreign Ministry Rebukes Christian Bale

December 21, 2011 7:57 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 2:58 pm
Actor Christian Bale arrives on the red carpet with his wife Sibi for the screening of the film "The Flowers of War," in Beijing on Dec. 12, 2011. Four days later Bale dashed to Shandong to try to visit Chen; his violent treatment by Chinese security guards was followed up recently with a verbal rebuke from the foreign ministry, who wishes foreigners would not concern themselves with China's human rights abuses. (Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

The human rights activism of Hollywood actor Christian Bale got a frosty reception in Beijing, after the spokesperson for the foreign ministry attacked him for “fabricating news,” according to reports.

Bale and a CNN news crew were roughed up by security guards during an attempt to visit blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, in his village in eastern China on Friday Dec. 16. Chen has been locked in his house and beaten and reportedly tortured, after serving a four-year jail sentence for challenging the Communist Party on its practices of forced abortion and the sterilization of women.

The foreign ministry gave its first response to Bale’s visit on Dec. 22, presumably at the daily press briefing. Liu Weimin, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, was reported in response to a question to have said “He was not invited to fabricate news or shoot film in a certain village,” and “I think if you want to make up news in China, you will not be welcome here.”

The original remarks are not yet available online, and foreign reports did not explain precisely where and when they were made. It is unclear whether Bale will have difficulty promoting the recent film he shot in China, an anti-Japanese, $100 million blockbuster called “Flowers of War,” directed by Zhang Yimou, a filmmaker who has in recent years gained attention for his service to the Communist Party’s public relations efforts. 

Bale explained the reason for his visit to Chen in previous interviews: “I started reading about his story, I was inspired by the man himself… I just wanted to shake his hand and say thank you.” 

Chen, a self-taught lawyer and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, spent four years and three months in prison after he exposed the systematic use of forced abortions and involuntary sterilization as part of China’s one-child policy. While in prison, the 40-year-old was subjected to torture.

The official reason for his detention was “destruction of public property and assembly to obstruct traffic,” though these statements are often regarded by Chinese legal experts as thin covers for political persecution. 

During the past 15 months Chen, his wife, and their child, have lived in near total isolation. To stop Chen from contacting the outside world, authorities positioned around-the-clock guards and installed electronic shielding devices around his house. They also deal violently with supporters who try to visit his home. In July, Chen and his wife were subjected to a four hour beating after he was found in possession of a phone card. 

At a checkpoint near Chen’s village, Bale and the CNN crew got out of their van and were approached by four unidentified security guards who ignored Bale’s request to see the blind activist. The guards began swiping at the camera equipment. 

“It’s amazing that a superpower like China is so afraid of [Chen], and it shows such an intrinsic weakness within the fabric of the country,” Bale said later in an interview with CNN.

“This type of treatment I feel does not represent the people of China; this represents the power structure and their own attitude towards their own citizens, which is disgusting,” he said. At one point in the interview he called the Chinese regime’s conduct “vile.”

“I am not being brave doing this,” Bale said as he was driven back to Beijing. “I want to support what they are doing.”

He added: “This doesn’t come naturally to me, but this was just a situation where I said that I can’t look the other way.”