After he was denied re-entry to China eight times, Feng Zhenghu lived in Tokyo’s Narita Airport for 92 days in 2009-2010. Now Feng is telling the story of his airport odyssey on his blog, and CDT is translating his account.
This is part 16. Read previous installments here.
November 18, 2009
Before six in the morning, the television above the immigration control window was already broadcasting Japan’s new immigration control process in multiple languages. It seemed that travellers were going to be passing through early today. Dazed, I rose from “bed,” then sat there for a long while.
Actually, in the evenings it’s impossible for me to get a good night’s sleep because I have to press close to the chair back to keep myself from falling off. To turn over, I have to sit up in “bed” and adjust my posture before lying down again, endlessly tossing from side to side. Even if my back is stiff and sore, I force myself to lay down. If I’m tired enough, I fall asleep for a while. Previously, when I was incarcerated in my own country, I heard a saying that went, “You can’t get sued at night.” The point was that a prisoner is the same as a free person when he’s asleep. At least in prison I had a reliable place to sleep at night. Homeless on Japan’s doorstep, however, I am without even a small space to lay my head.
In the morning, friends called to tell me about President Obama’s visit to China. During a speech in Shanghai, Obama expressed his unyielding attitude toward freedom of speech on the Internet. Obama suggested that the Chinese government engage in talks with the Dalai Lama. He also expressed willingness to meet with Chinese human rights lawyers. All of these statements were expressions of Obama’s concern for the human rights of the Chinese people. Probably a lot of people weren’t satisfied because Obama didn’t take out a list of human rights problems to put the Chinese government on the spot. Actually, though, America has already learned to deal with the Chinese government in this way. Obama can only do so much.
Obama isn’t an all-powerful savior, and he’s not the president of China, either. He’s the guest of a creditor country. We can’t expect the U.S. president to have an effect on concrete issues related to Chinese human rights. The U.S. system of values and policies toward freedom, democracy, and human rights is unwavering. The U.S. president’s and high officials’ indirect and sparing mention of human rights issues while visiting China is simply tactical. Every year the U.S. Department of State issues its report on human rights in China. While the report is aggravating for the Chinese government, it is gradually starting to listen. The Chinese government needs to be given “face,” and the American government needs to see actual change.
An improvement in Chinese human rights will largely depend on the Chinese people themselves. The Chinese people have the courage, intelligence, and strength necessary to improve the current circumstances. Starting with each and every Chinese person, we must protect our own human rights, uphold dignity by conducting ourselves with integrity, show concern for the human rights of those around us, and resist any and all human rights violations. If we do all of this, then China will without a doubt become a wonderful country which respects human rights.
At around three in the afternoon, two stewardesses from a Taiwanese airline walked up to me and asked how I was doing. They said, “We pass through here often, but we didn’t know that you were going hungry. It wasn’t until our coworkers told us just now that we knew about your situation. How could it be that the Chinese government isn’t letting its own citizen return home? Who’s ever heard of that sort of thing?” They took some bread and meat buns out of their carry-on to give to me.
I declined the offer. “I’ve got food now.”
“No, these things are fresh. We bought them in Taiwan just before getting on the plane. Please take them.” I thanked them profusely and accepted the food–this is the care and concern of the people. Parked in the south wing of Narita Airport, stewardesses from all kinds of flights pass by, each of them smiling and nodding at me in greeting. By now, probably all of the employees at Narita know that a Chinese human rights activist is living in the south wing of the immigration inspection hall, struggling for his right of return. Everyone knew my demand, no matter in Chinese, Japanese, or English: huiguo, kikoku, return to China.
At 6:30 p.m., the legal affairs officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Japan, Mr. Miyazawa, received permission from the Japanese Immigration Bureau in Tokyo to enter the hall along with Mr. Lin Fei* and some Japanese customs officials. The purpose of his trip was to ascertain whether or not I would be willing to apply to become a political refugee and complete the associated procedures.
I politely declined to apply to become a UN refugee. I said, “I have my own country. China is my motherland. I am Chinese, a Chinese intellectual, so I have a responsibility to China. What I need now is to go home. This is the most basic right of all Chinese people. Chinese authorities refusing to let citizens return violates not only the UN charter and international human rights treaties, but also the Chinese constitution. So far, the Chinese government has not stated that it will refuse my return. I know there are a great deal of hardships back home, but I am still willing to stay in China.”
Mr. Lin brought me some fruit and other nutritious food, and also a sleeping bag. I am extremely grateful for his continued assistance. [Chinese]
Translated by Nick.
*Lin Fei is a Japan-based representative of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition. Back.