China tells off "Batman" star Bale for "creating news"

BEIJING Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:59am GMT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China slammed Hollywood actor and "Batman" star Christian Bale on Wednesday for "creating news" after he was roughed up by security guards as he attempted to visit a blind legal activist whose detention has sparked a domestic and international outcry.

Bale and a camera crew from CNN were last week jostled by men in plainclothes in Dongshigu village in eastern Shandong province, where activist Chen Guangcheng has been under house arrest for 15 months.

Bale was in China for the premiere of his latest film, "The Flowers of War" by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, a lavish and at times graphic tear-jerker about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre which is China's Oscar entry for best foreign language film.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, asked if China had been embarrassed by Bale's actions given the country's hopes for the film to win an Academy award, said it was Bale who should be embarrassed.

"If anyone should be embarrassed it's the relevant actor, not the Chinese side," Liu told a daily news briefing, in the country's first reaction to Bale's actions.

"What I understand is that the actor was invited by the director Zhang Yimou to attend the movie premiere. He was not invited to any village in Shandong to create news or make a film," he added.

"If he wants to create news, I don't think that would be welcomed by China."

He did not answer a question about whether Bale's actions might affect the chances of any of his upcoming movies being screened in China.

"The Flowers of War" has played to ecstatic audiences in China, and has raked in some 200 million yuan ($31.5 million) at the box office since being released last week.

It gets a limited release in the United States this week, where it has so far garnered unenthusiastic reviews.

The fate of Chen, a self-schooled advocate, has become a test of wills, pitting the Communist Party's crackdown on dissent against activists championing his cause and that of artist Ai Weiwei.

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."

China does not take kindly to foreign criticism of its rights record. In 2008, Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" at a Shanghai concert after performing her song "Declare Independence," angering the government and local fans alike.

As a young boy, Bale starred in "Empire of the Sun," a film set in World War Two about a British family in Shanghai.

($1 = 6.3472 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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