Actor Christian Bale made international headlines when he attempted to visit Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese human rights activist who has brought attention to massive forced abortions in his country, but was forced away by security officials, which was all caught on camera. The “Batman” star insisted that he is not a hero, rather, the Chinese villagers fighting for Chen's release are the ones who deserve recognition.
Bale was in Beijing for the premier of “Flowers of War,” a film he is starring in about the 1937 Nanking massacre, said to be the most expensive movie production in Chinese history. But during the filming of the movie, Bale learned about Chen, a blind, self-taught human rights lawyer who is known for exposing the fact that government officials in Linyi County forced 130,000 abortions and sterilizations in 2005, according to Women's Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF).
In 2010, a local court sentenced Chen to a 4-year house arrest sentence for disrupting traffic during a protest.
When the movie star decided to take an eight-hour car trip outside China's capital to visit Chen and thank him for his human rights work, he was manhandled by security guards and turned away before being able to do so.
"What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is," Bale said, CNN reported. And although he has brought more international attention to Chen's ordeal, he insists he should not be commended.
"I'm not brave doing this," Bale said. "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."
Nonetheless, human rights groups like WRWF are grateful to Bale for bringing more attention to an issue they describe as “official injustice.”
"Christian Bale is right that the true heroes are the Chinese citizens who have been beaten and detained trying to visit Chen, and yet Bale is a hero as well,” said Reggie Littlejohn, president of WRWF, in a press release.
“He is starring in the most expensive film ever made in China, which China hopes will win an Academy Award. Nevertheless, he has the courage to stand against official injustice and has greatly raised the visibility of Chen's case."
After being forced to leave the village where Chen is detained, Bale complained about the lack of media coverage, both in China and internationally, surrounding Chen's case, despite attempts to bring attention to it by high-profile figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On the way back to Beijing, CNN reported that Bale repeatedly asked his colleagues, “"Really, what else can I do to help Chen?"