Hollywood actor Christian Bale presented a human rights award to Chinese pro-life advocate Chen Guangcheng for fighting forced abortions in China, praising him as a courageous and inspirational figure.
By exposing “a program of forced abortion and sterilization in Shandong,” Chen exemplified the “values that we teach our children every day of helping our fellow man,” Bale said.
Chen was the 2012 Human Rights Award Honoree at an Oct. 25 gala in New York City hosted by Human Rights First, an organization that challenges the United States to live up to its ideals.
Bale met the blind human rights activist for the first time at the gala. The Batman star had previously attempted to visit Chen during his time in house arrest but was roughed up and turned away by plainclothes guards.
Blinded by a serious illness when he was young, Chen is a self-taught human rights lawyer who spoke out against China’s one-child policy and the coerced abortions and sterilizations that are often used to enforce it. His work attracted the anger of Chinese authorities.
Chen spent more than four years in prison and was subsequently placed under house arrest in September 2010. He and his family were held without formal charges, and he said that they were violently assaulted and refused medical treatment.
In late April, he made international headlines by escaping from house arrest and reaching the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
He left the embassy for a hospital in Beijing on May 2, after being promised by Chinese authorities that he and his family would be secure. Shortly afterwards, however, he voiced fears for his safety and asked to come to the U.S. with his family for a period of peaceful rest.
Chen was offered a fellowship to study law and learn English at New York University’s law school and was ultimately allowed to travel to the United States with his family, arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 19.
In presenting the award, Bale emphasized the blind activist’s work on behalf of women and their unborn children who are subject to the country’s brutal one-child policy.
“A program of forced abortion means that women are being dragged from their homes against their will,” Bale said. “They are being forced to have abortions, sometimes late-term – imagine that – with some women reportedly dying in the process.”
Referring to these forced abortions as “true horror,” the actor stated that in this “insane world,” Chen stood up for the women of China, living out “simple, brave and universally-admired values.”
“For this, this man was imprisoned and beaten for over four years,” he said.
Speaking through a translator, Chen said that he was honored to receive the award.
“Just as the name Human Rights First implies, I believe if everyone throughout the world put human rights in first place, we would be living in a very different world,” he said.
“This is not just an award for me, but I feel I am representing all people who live in non-democratic countries,” he added.
“Human Rights First is proud to honor Chen, whose bravery for risking a dangerous escape from abusive local Chinese authorities is inspiring,” said the organization’s president and CEO, Elisa Massimino. “His daring defiance of a brutal regime gives courage to those in China and beyond who struggle for human rights.”
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a group that works to oppose forced abortions in China, praised both men for their courage. Littlejohn helped lead efforts to bring Chen to safety last spring.
"Chen Guangcheng is a towering champion of human rights, who with incomparable courage, stood alone against the Chinese totalitarian regime,” she said. “The women of China and the world will long remember his bravery on their behalf."
Bale has also “become a human rights champion in his own right,” Littlejohn added, observing that the actor risked his own safety in seeking to visit Chen last December, attracting visibility that “greatly helped the international effort to free Chen.”
“And Bale is brave to condemn the practice of forced abortion in China,” she said.