Feng Zhenghu: Air Mail and Christmas Cards
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 33. Read previous installments here.
Today is December 5, my 32nd day camped at Japan’s doorstep.
I fell asleep at midnight and woke up at 6 a.m. Breakfast today was a small cup of instant noodles and a meat bun. Yesterday a flight attendant from Canada offered me a thermos. At the time I thought that I wouldn’t use it, so I didn’t accept it. But now I’m starting to think that I should have taken it, even though I’m already used to drinking cold water. Now that it’s winter, after all, eating cold food and drinking cold water can lead to stomachaches.
I received an email from Professor Zhou Yicheng, who forwarded me a copy of his essay, “Tokyo Air Mail: Help Feng Zhenghu,” published in issue 199 of Beijing Spring (December 2009). I haven’t been able to get online for some time, so I haven’t been clear on the current state of affairs in the outside world. Reading his essay, though, I was moved to learn about all the assistance that my friends have been providing me over the past month, especially through the Tokyo Air Mail Movement, launched by Dr. Yang Jianli’s Initiatives for China.
The Tokyo Air Mail Movement has not only been providing me with food and daily necessities, but more importantly has awakened the national spirit of the Chinese to sympathize with their compatriots, demonstrating the power of the grassroots organization Initiatives for China.
Yicheng was my philosophy professor when I was in graduate school at Fudan University. When I was considering a doctorate in economic management at Fudan in the early 1980s, Yicheng was already a young and promising philosophy professor with a Ph.D., teaching a graduate course on Engel’s “Dialectics of Nature.” He was always an active member of the various groups and activities which I organized, becoming not only an important mentor but also a good friend. Even before June 4, 1989, he was already living abroad in the Soviet Union as a visiting professor, and later immigrated to the United States. He is now the editor of Beijing Spring, writing under the penname Yayi. He is well-read and a gifted writer, but also exceedingly modest, with a wide circle of friends.
To date, he has penned numerous portraits of famous figures, with several of my own important experiences recorded in his articles “The ‘Godfather’ of Shanghai Entrepreneurs: Recollections of the “Shanghai Development Research Committee’” (China Times Weekly, issue 346, November 12, 1991), and “A Great Miscarriage of Justice in Chinese Freedom of Press: Feng Zhenghu’s Lawsuit Against the Shanghai Municipal Press and Publication Bureau” (Beijing Spring, issue 147, August 2005), among others.
On Skype, I ran into the Shanghai author Xiao Qiao (née Li Jianhong), who was also refused entry from Shenzhen in October. Yesterday, after both her passport extension and right of return were rejected, she protested outside the Chinese embassy in Sweden, at the same time voicing her support for me. I thanked her and tweeted an article about her protest in order to encourage people to support her return home.
Personally, I would never go to the embassy to protest, because I think all those diplomats inside the embassy have it even worse off than I do. They are unable to fulfil their responsibility to serve their country effectively, working only for their higher-ups. The higher ups don’t like to hear criticism, so the diplomats almost certainly won’t be presenting any petitions from overseas Chinese; the higher ups don’t understand the law, so all they can do is make it up as they go along, tormenting their own people by absurd and illegal means, such as refusing to extend passports. Nowadays, though, we have all sorts of ways to bring our protests directly to the officials who are infringing on our rights.
If my passport extension were refused, I would hire a Chinese lawyer to bring the ambassador to court. I wouldn’t target the ambassador personally, but instead the illegal actions of his administration. Domestic Chinese courts would defer the case, of course, but it doesn’t matter, because at least I would have been able to assert my rights through the law, while also publicizing the illegality of this administrative action. Although embassies have diplomatic immunity, their treatment of Chinese nationals abroad falls under the jurisdiction of domestic law. If this sort of infringement on civil rights does not find judicial relief in the domestic courts, then you can make an appeal to the International Court of Justice.
At 1:30 p.m., the chief inspector of the Terminal 1 immigration control office once again came to deliver the same letter as the day before, with only the date changed. The method of delivery was also the same as before, with one immigration officer handing me the letter and another taking a picture, to prove that they had notified me. I’ve been here for less than a month, but Japanese officials are already getting impatient. They’d better start writing letters to the Chinese leadership. Receiving official letters every day from a Japanese government office, it’s kind of funny, like I’m working part-time at the embassy. The world is a ridiculous place.
At 2:30, a Japanese person carrying a package of preserved fruit and a box of snacks from Singapore came to visit me. He is the husband of a former classmate from my time as a graduate student at Hitotsubashi University. At 3:00, flight attendants from Taiwan, United Airlines, and China Airlines arrived in Japan. As they walked past me, they all gave me words of encouragement, and some also brought me fresh food. I have already become familiar to them. While I was away, one flight attendant left a paper bag on my “bed,” and the young woman working at the neighboring information desk told me that a China Airlines attendant had left it. Besides food, the bag contained a card with a note to me, written in English:
To Feng Zhenghu，
I watch your story unfold on the television news and on the internet here in Canada. I hope you will be able to make it back to your home in China before Christmas. There are many people around the world wishing you the best of luck.
Merry Christmas 2009-12-5
Vancouver Canada [sic]
Because I didn’t received permission from the author to publish her letter, I have redacted her name. This is the first Christmas card I’ve ever received, so I posted it on Twitter to share my happiness with my Twitter friends.
At 8:00, I finished writing a letter to Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, and Wen Jiabao. Later, whenever I present letters from the Japanese government to the Chinese government, I will include this letter, changing only the date, not its content or solemn tone. The Japanese are on to something. Spoken words aren’t evidence. If I write things down and take pictures, then I will have proof when it comes time to argue my case to the Chinese government. [Chinese]
Translation by Nick.