Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng named GQ's rebel of year

After escaping house arrest and fleeing to the US, campaigner is hailed by GQ magazine

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 2:52pm

Six months after escaping house arrest in the Shandong village of Liyi, blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been named one of GQ magazine's "men of the year".

Specifically, the American men's fashion magazine dubbed Chen as its "rebel of the year", placing him alongside Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (athlete of the year), Ben Affleck (director of the year) and pop singer Rihanna (obsession of the year).

Not to let the humble activist be upstaged, the magazine ran a photo of Chen looking heroic beside the sea in a stylish black utility shirt, slim-fit trousers and with a billowing crimson scarf.

It was dramatic change from when arrived to start his studies at New York University, wearing ill-fitting khakis and a cast covering his broken foot.

In the accompanying interview, Chen rehashed the story of how he broke his foot climbing over a wall during his escape.

But he also shared his struggles adjusting to Western life and his continued concerns for his family back home, including his nephew, Chen Kegui, who has been charged with trying to murder a security official who broke into his home.

"This is just another instance of the persistent persecution of me and my family," Chen said.

"It's also a symbol of the rule of law in China. If Chen had not resisted, he would have been killed.

"In any other country you would be allowed to defend yourself, but in China you cannot get a fair hearing."

Chen has been learning English and described New York as an exciting, bustling place, if a little smelly. "It has a certain polluted smell, but there's a certain marine scent from the river," Chen said.

"The subway stations are hot and the trains don't run on time. Democracies aren't perfect."

Mostly, Chen seems to be enjoying being away from the stress and walking in parks.

"That kind of place, resting, the pretty whispering voices, the mixture of floral scents, is what I really love."

He even took a trip to the New Jersey shore.

He said: "I love the ocean. I love to swim. I love nature. Our vacation was too short, though."