Google made global headlines for standing up to the Chinese government as a private company. In the Tokyo Narita airport, a 56-year-old Chinese citizen has spent three months waging his own battle for the right to return to his own country. On November 4, 2009, Feng Zhenghu, an economist and self-taught human rights lawyer, was barred entry by Shanghai border control and sent back to Narita Airport in Tokyo. Feng is a Chinese citizen and resident of Shanghai who had spent several months in Japan before attempting to return home. He was refused entry eight times: Four times he was forcibly put back on an airplane after arriving at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, and four times various airlines refused to let him board in Tokyo citing orders from the Chinese government. The last time, he refused to go through Japanese customs and remained in the airport, where he has been ever since. Feng has been subsisting on donations of food and sleeps in the airport terminal.
Feng had been an activist for many years and recently has advocated on behalf of petitioners fighting injustices by local or central officials. He has suffered regular harassment by authorities for his activities, and before leaving for Japan was detained for several weeks without charge. On January 27, an official from the Chinese embassy in Japan visited Feng, the first contact he has received from the Chinese government after almost three months of living in the airport.
Thanks to Chinese volunteers who have helped him set up Twitter and blogging accounts, Feng has been documenting his experiences. He now has over 13,000 followers on Twitter. CDT has translated some of his recent posts and tweets below.
Excerpted from Feng Zhenghu’s article, published on Canyu.org:
In recent days, police from Shanghai Domestic Security Department under the local PSB have gone frequently to talk to my family in Shanghai asking for cooperation, sometimes even in a threatening manner. They’re playing the same old tricks again. But this is just going to get the opposite result as they wished. Do you think you can be so clever to handle this, a globally-known event, and a Chinese homeless person who’s been sleeping in the open for over 80 days and will go on waiting as long as he’s alive? Both sides should be candid and use great wisdom to solve this problem.
This afternoon, Mr. Du and Consul Mr. Zhao from the Chinese Embassy in Japan came to negotiate with me again. Mr. Du passed me three official points from the Shanghai government, which I immediately rebutted and asked him to send back my words. Now, it’s necessary for me to reply openly to the acts and replies from the Shanghai authorities.
…On the afternoon of Jan. 26, police from Shanghai Domestic Security Department under the local PSB had a talk with my brother, who called me the same evening. He told me three things over the phone:
1. I should say to the public that it was my wife that asked the Chinese Embassy to visit me;
2. They were very unhappy seeing my remarks that I would call the Shanghai government to account;
3. They said there would be three outcomes: (1) it’s impossible to have the government apologize; (2) they won’t negotiate on my return to China until I leave the airport and enter Japan; (3) we are stalemated forever.
During the meeting this afternoon with the officials from the Chinese Embassy, I made careful notes of the three points from the Shanghai government, and read them for Mr. Du to double-check. My notes: “1. The issue of Shanghai government owing you an apology doesn’t exist; 2. Your return to China is approved, but let’s talk about the exact date after you enter Japan; 3. We’ll decide afterward whether you can visit the International Expo based on your behavior.”
…To be honest, the two diplomats from the Chinese Embassy left me a very good first impression. They frankly told me that they’re here to visit me on behalf of the Chinese government to discuss my return to China. They didn’t mention at all that my wife had asked them to visit me. No one asked them to visit me. They came themselves to perform the responsibility for the Chinese government. Therefore, I respect them very much, and the public and media all applaud their acts. It’s not losing face but earning face in the international community that the Chinese government visits a Chinese citizen who sleeps outside, correcting the mistakes made by local government officials.
…Approving my return to China—is this supposed to be under the Shanghai government’s power? Shanghai officials on behalf of the Shanghai government eventually ordered the Chinese Embassy in Japan to show me mercy, yet with an additional condition—they demand that I discuss my return date after I enter Japan. Or perhaps, if they’re not content, the exact date could be indefinite. China’s Constitution states that it is the state’s power to administer citizen’s entry and exit, yet when the citizen returns is his own right.
In the evening, I finished “Will the Chinese government take the blame for unlawful Shanghai officials?” This article is my open reply to the acts and feedback of Shanghai government.
The following are translated tweets from Feng’s Twitter account @fengzhenghu over the past three days:
From January 27, 2010:
6:53 AM Jan 27th from Flickr
Now is different from ten years ago. Chinese citizens have already stood up. It’s in vain to threaten people playing the government card. Any individual, group, including the government, is equal before the law, and should comply with the Chinese Constitution and law.
3:21 AM Jan 27th from web
The issue is simple, yet it’s complicated if avoiding the substantive matter, and it’s gonna take long, maybe another 80 days. I’ve lost my sense of time. Just take it easy. It doesn’t matter that I’m having a hard time here, as long as the Chinese government has sufficient time to handle the case as perfectly as possible.
3:20 AM Jan 27th from web
We have yet to enter the official negotiation, maybe we’re only getting to know each other. If both sides accept that we’re in the negotiation phase, I’ll comply with the confidentiality agreement.
3:19 AM Jan 27th from web
Around 3:50 p.m., Mr. Du and Consul Mr. Zhao from the Chinese Embassy in Japan came to talk to me for about half an hour. They forwarded me three points from the Shanghai government, and I rebutted them one by one, asking them to pass to the Shanghai government. But the communication between us was peaceful. But we will need to communicate several times before we understand each other.
3:19 AM Jan 27th from web
At 3:40 p.m., the deputy director of Narita Tax Agency, Mr. Iwamoto, came to visit me. He told me that my original contact official, Mr. Takahara, was hospitalized. We exchanged business cards. He’s going to take over Mr. Takahara’s job in the future. He looks like a nice guy. I gave my regards to Mr. Takahara, and wished him a quick recovery. Mr. Takahara and I got along very well, and he takes good care of me.
3:18 AM Jan 27th from web
15:30 Today the chief inspector on duty turned in the 55th official document to me. The content is the same as that of yesterday. The date is new. I took a picture together with him. I also sent my “The 55th Japanese Official Document on Jan.26 2010 Forwarded to Chinese Government by Feng Zhenghu” to web media for publication, and attached the photocopy of the Japanese official document.
3:10 AM Jan 27th from web
From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., I went to take a rest at the place with sunshine. And I received telephone interviews from a Japanese magazine and Asia Weekly.
3:09 AM Jan 27th from web
13:14 A German TV phoned and interviewed me.
3:09 AM Jan 27th from web
12:40 Sound of Hope Radio Network phoned and interviewed me.
3:08 AM Jan 27th from web
12:19 VOA phoned and interviewed me.
3:08 AM Jan 27th from web
I spent my morning writing.
3:07 AM Jan 27th from web
Today is Jan.27, the 85th day of my sleeping outside the Japan gate.
From January 28, 2010:
* During my conversation with a journalist, an airline stewardess specially came to deliver a box of rice to me. She said: We know you want to eat rice now. Those airline stewardesses take very good care of me. What I like to eat gets passed around among them, and my fresh food and fruit are all from them. Another airline stewardess also delivered a gift box with fruit and refreshments inside.
* 16:51 Reporter from Boxun called to interview me.
* I spent my afternoon writing.
* 13:30 Today the chief inspector on duty turned in the 57th official document to me. The content is the same as that of yesterday. The date is new. I took a picture together with him. I also sent my “57th Japanese Official Document on Jan.28 2010 Forwarded to Chinese Government by Feng Zhenghu” to web media for publication, and attached the photocopy of the Japanese official document.
* I spent my morning writing.
* Today is Jan. 28, 2010, the 86th day of my sleeping outside Japan’s gate.
And the following tweets are from Jan. 29, 2010, translated by CDT: (the original tweets were in reverse chronological order; in order for readers to understand the time sequence, we have reordered them chronologically.)
20：00 About fifty children from Chongqing came to Japan as tourists. They flew from Chongqing to Shanghai, and then spent three days visiting South Korea, and now are going to spend seven days in Japan. When the head teacher was filling out entrance forms on their behalf, they sat around my bench, some of them around my human rights exhibition desk, picking up documents and asking lots of questions.
I asked those kids who are reading my pamphlets, “Which grade are you in?” They told me “grade four.” I said, “You may recognize characters in those articles, but you may not really understanding the meaning. You are still young. When you grow up, this kind of thing will not happen again.”
A little girl was reading a brochure “I want to return to my home.. She said: “I can read this Japanese.” I said: “These are not Japanese, they are complex Chinese characters.” “Oh,” she said. Then she continued to carefully read this brochure with both text and pictures.
They asked me: “Uncle, you are here, why don’t you return to China.” I said: “I have tried to return to China eight times. But officials in Shanghai dd not let me return.” This sentence definitely went over their heads. Actually, even adults have found it is hard to understand why officials can stop a citizen from returning to his own country.
Some girls were especially sympathetic. They asked me: “Uncle, where do you sleep at night?” I told them “Right here on this bench.” They were so surprised: “Really?! That’s so hard.”
A little girl wearing glasses was reading the article, “To not let Feng Zhenghu return to China is our national shame.” She said; “Uncle, you studied at Fudan University. My sister is also studying at Fudan University.” I told her: “Fudan University is a famous university in China. Your sister must have done very well academically. You must be a very good student as well.”
A little boy pointed to the banner “Supporting Feng Zhenghu to Return China” and said “Do Japanese support you to return to China?” He probably misread those supporting signatures of Hong Kong residents as Japanese. I told him: “It is not that Japanese support me to return to China, it is Chinese supporting me to return to China. These signatures are Chinese names and words.”
A little boy said: “Uncle, if Shanghai does not let you return, you can come to Chongqing.” Another little boy said seriously: “No, you should go to Beijing, to tell Mr. Hu Jintao, these officials should be shot.” I said: “No, they should not be shot.” Another little boy said,” Put them into prison and do not let them out.” Then those kids start to argue, playing the role of judge.
Before they left, a boy came to me again to take some brochures. While he was walking he said, ” Uncle, there is your phone number on this, I will call you in the future.” I said to them, “Have a wonderful time in Japan.” They lined up, led by their teachers, to go through customs. They are so innocent and so lovely. I hope they will not have my experience when they grow up.