In the Chinese countryside, dissidents and activists who speak out in favor of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights are quickly suppressed without much ceremony--they and their families are often jailed, put under house arrest, or sent to labor camps without formal trials or sentencing. The numbers are impossible to pin down, since the CPC maintains pretty strict control over journalists, the press, and the internet, but the practice is widespread. They're not very tolerant over there of anything or anyone that might "disrupt the social order," whatever the heck that means.
Chen Guangcheng is one such activist, well known for speaking out against the forced abortions that are a common occurence in rural China, currently detained inside his own home. While in China for the premiere of a new movie, actor Christian Bale tried to visit the captive dissident--and he and the CNN team came face-to-face with the rude auspices of communist oppression.
"I am here to see Chen Guangcheng," the "Dark Knight" actor said and I translated, with correspondent Stan Grant and cameraman Brad Olson next to us.
"Go away!" the plainclothes guards barked, pushing us back.
Amid the scuffling and yelling, dozens more guards in olive-green, military-style overcoats -- and two gray minivans -- emerged from the other side of the checkpoint, all coming toward us.
"Why can I not visit this free man?" Bale asked repeatedly, only to receive punches from guards aiming for his small camera as they tried to drag him away from the rest of us.
As we retreated, I recognized the ringleader -- the same burly man who had hurled rocks at the CNN team 10 months earlier to force us out of the same location.
Major respect to Christian Bale for bringing attention to the horrible and scantily-concealed state of human affairs in China--it can hardly be emphasized enough.