Hollywood actor Christian Bale was roughed up by Chinese security guards as he attempted to visit a blind legal activist whose detention has sparked a domestic and international outcry, CNN reported on Friday.
Bale, who plays crime-fighting superhero Batman, and the camera crew from CNN were jostled by men in plainclothes from Dongshigu village in eastern Shandong province, where activist Chen Guangcheng has been under house arrest for 15 months, according to a video released by CNN on its website.
"Why can I not visit this man?" Bale asked several security officers, while they were pushing him.
"You know, I'm not being brave doing this," Bale told CNN. "The local people who are standing up to the authorities and insisting on going to visit Chen and his family and getting beaten up for it, and my understanding, getting detained for it and everything. I want to support what they are doing."
CNN said the guards followed the network's van for more than half an hour.
The fate of Chen, a charismatic, self-schooled advocate who has campaigned against forced abortions, has become a test of wills, pitting the ruling Communist Party's crackdown on dissent against rights activists who have rallied around his cause and that of artist Ai Weiwei.
In recent months, dozens of supporters have been blocked from visiting Chen. Many of them were beaten by men in plain clothes.
CNN said that Bale, who is in China for the premiere of his latest film The Flowers of War, approached the news network to try to meet Chen. They took an eight-hour car journey to Chen's village from Beijing.
"This doesn't come naturally to me," Bale said to CNN. "But this was just a situation, I said, I can't look the other way."
Chen angered Shandong officials in 2005 by exposing a programme of forced abortions as part of China's one-child policy. He was formally released in September 2010 after four years in jail on a charge of "blocking traffic".
"What I really wanted to do is to shake the man's hand and say: 'Thank you,' and tell him what an inspiration he is," Bale told CNN.