Chinese activist to end protest at Narita airport after 88 days
posted on Monday, February 01, 2010 03:56 AM
A Chinese activist who spent 88 days camping out at Tokyo’s international airport after being barred from going home said Sunday that he was ending his protest after Chinese officials visited him.
Feng Zhenghu had stayed at Narita International Airport since early November to protest China’s refusal to let him return to his homeland from Japan.
He angered the Chinese government with writings on alleged wrongdoing by local authorities and for supporting student protests. Amnesty International describes Feng, who spent three years in prison, as a prominent human rights defender.
Holding a valid Chinese passport and a visa to enter Japan, Feng was free to leave the airport, but refused to pass immigration control.
His decision to end the protest came after Chinese officials visited him at the airport last week—for the first time since he started camping out.
“Chinese Embassy officials came to see me several times. Now they seem to acknowledge the problem,” Feng told The Associated Press from the airport terminal on his cell phone. “I’ve decided to enter Japan, pull myself together and return to Shanghai for the Chinese New Year.”
Feng has been denied entry to China eight times since June. On the last of his attempts to return, he got as far as Shanghai’s Pudong airport, where Chinese officials forced him to get back on a plane for Tokyo, which arrived Nov 4.
Since then, Feng staged a peaceful protest at the airport and through his cell phone and laptop, talking to supporters and posting blogs and tweets on Twitter.
Feng said Sunday he planned to stay with his sister, who is married to a Japanese man and lives near Tokyo, until mid-February.
“I believe next time I can return home,” Feng said, without elaborating. He declined to say if the embassy officials promised to guarantee his re-entry. “As a Chinese citizen, I have a right to return home.”
He wrote Sunday on Twitter that the Chinese officials showed their diplomatic concern “sincerely” and “I will respond with sincerity as well.” He said he will formally announce his decision Tuesday before entering Japan, without giving reasons on the choice of date.
It was not clear if Tokyo made any diplomatic efforts to resolve the case with Beijing.
Calls to the Chinese Embassy were unanswered, and Japanese officials were not available for comment Sunday.
As word of Feng’s predicament spread, he became something of a celebrity, with his situation reminiscent of that in “The Terminal,” the movie about a stateless man stuck at New York’s Kennedy Airport.
He also seemed to have won over some airport officials, who looked the other way when he used the terminal’s power outlets to charge his batteries or a bathroom to change clothes and wash himself.
“Life here has been tough,” Feng said. “I think I’ve done enough.”
Copyright 2010 Associated Press.