The Welsh-born actor, who won an Oscar for his work in "The Fighter," is best known for his portrayal of Batman in director Christopher Nolan's blockbuster film franchise.
He has been in China promoting his latest movie "The Flowers of War," which is the country's official entry in the upcoming Oscars race.
The Times said government-backed security guards punched and shoved Bale Thursday as he tried to visit Guangcheng, a blind lawyer confined to his home.
The incident was filmed by a CNN camera crew who accompanied Bale on the 8-hour drive from Beijing to Dongshigu.
"Why can I not visit this free man?" Bale is seen asking the guards in the footage.
The newspaper said the government has not commented on the incident.
"What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is," Bale said.
Chen, 40, has been imprisoned in his home, along with his wife and child, since he was released from prison in September 2010. He was sentenced in 2006 to more than four years in prison after he represented thousands of female victims of an aggressive family-planning campaign that included forced sterilizations and abortions, the Times said.