BEIJING -- "Batman" star Christian Bale was roughed up by security guards who stopped him visiting a blind activist living under house arrest in China.
Video footage of the scuffle was shot by a camera crew traveling with the Hollywood actor as he promoted a film he has made in the country.
CNN posted scenes of the confrontation between Bale and the guards 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 plain-clothed and uniformed workers 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.
Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale and his wife Sibi are escorted by security guards as they arrive for the premiere of the "Flowers of War" in Beijing on Dec. 12.
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's case has been raised publicly by U.S. lawmakers and diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, all to no response from China.
CNN said Bale first learned of Chen from news reports when he was in China filming "The Flowers of War," China's official submission this year for best foreign language film Oscar.
"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.
Politically sensitive subject
The incident also drew strong interest — most of it highly positive — on social networking sites such as Twitter and its Chinese equivalent, Weibo.
Having their star's name pinging across the Internet in connection with such a politically sensitive subject puts promoters of "The Flowers of War" in a bind. The film opens in China on Friday and next week in the United States.
Directed by the renowned Zhang Yimou, it is also the most expensive Chinese movie ever made, at $94 million, some of which came from the state-owned Bank of China.
The movie centers on the 1937 sacking of the eastern city of Nanjing, a central event in China's pre-revolutionary "century of humiliation" and has been described by some critics as hewing to official propaganda portraying Chinese as heroic victims and Japanese as one-dimensional cartoon villains.
While China has the world's third-largest film industry — both in box office and output — it has made relatively little global impact. Story lines are often heavily influenced by the ruling Communist Party, whose culture commissars must approve scripts and have final say over whether a film gets released....
Beijing Imposes New Rules on Social Networking Sites....
By EDWARD WONG
BEIJING — Officials announced new rules on Friday aimed at controlling the way Chinese Internet users post messages on social networking sites that have posed challenges to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machinery.
For many users, the most striking of the new rules requires people using the sites, called microblogs, or weibo in Chinese, to register with their real names and biographical information. They will still be able to post under an alias, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.
Some analysts say the real-name registration could dampen some of the freewheeling conversations that take place online, and that sometimes result in a large number of users criticizing officials and government policy.
The rule on real-name registration had been expected for several months now by industry watchers, and Internet companies in China had already experimented in 2009 with some forms of this. It was the ninth of 17 new microblog regulations issued on Friday by Beijing government officials, who have been charged by central authorities with reining in the way microblogs are used.
The regulations also include a licensing requirement for companies that want to host microblogs and prohibitions on content, including posts aimed at “spreading rumors, disturbing social order, or undermining social stability.” But officials have long put pressure on microblog companies to self-censor, and the lists of limits on content is more an articulation of the boundaries already in place.
The regulation announced by the Beijing officials only apply to companies based in the capital, where several of the largest microblog platforms, including Sina and Sohu, are based.
One large rival, Tencent, is based in Shenzhen, a special economic zone in the south, and an editor there said Friday that the authorities had yet to issue any new regulations that would affect the company. But analysts expect that that city and others across China will soon put in place rules similar to the ones announced by Beijing.
“It’s just a further sign of the way things are going,” said Bill Bishop, an analyst and businessman based in Beijing who writes about the Internet industry on a blog, Digicha. Some Internet users, he added, might now ask themselves “why bother to say something? You never know.”
There were many comments of outrage on Friday from those posting on microblogs. “Society is going backwards,” wrote one user by the name of Cheng Yang. “Where is China’s path?”
Many prominent commentators and writers with influence over public opinion already post under their real names. For example, Pan Shiyi, a wealthy real estate developer who posts regularly, has more than seven million followers. He recently used his platform to advocate for stricter air pollution reports from the Beijing government.
"In fact, serious weibo users have already opted to use their real names out of their own interests,” said another editor at Tencent who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of talking about government policy.
Internet companies hosting microblogs have been told to comply with the new rules within three months. Sina and Tencent each have more than 200 million registered users; it is unclear how the companies will go about ensuring that each user has registered with real data.
But Mr. Bishop said the technology was already in place and had been used by one large Internet company, Baidu, when it ran its own version of a microblog, which no longer exists. The registration information that users enter online can be matched up against a police database, he said.
Leaders here have long discussed how to better control the Chinese Internet, which has about 485 million users, the most of any country. Most vexing for officials has been the speed with which information can spread on microblogs. This year, several incidents highlighted the reach of microblogs, including posts that ignited mass anger over both the Wenzhou high-speed train crash and the hit-and-run death of a two-year-old toddler, Yueyue.
China has for years blocked Twitter and Facebook, and officials here carefully monitored the rebellions this year in the Middle East to see how they were organized and what role social networking sites played.
But Chinese officials also see the microblogs as useful. The sites allow people to vent anger, and officials can track posts to see the direction of public opinion. More and more officials are also being encouraged to use microblogs for propaganda and to mold discussions. Talk within the party about controlling the Internet accelerated after a policy meeting of the party’s Central Committee in October that focused on culture and ideology.
In the announcement Friday, Beijing officials said micro-blogs should “actively spread the core values of the socialist system, disseminate socialist advanced culture, and build a socialist harmonious society.”