HONG KONG—A Chinese rights activist stranded in Tokyo’s airport for three months is giving up his protest and hopes to return home to Shanghai, apparently after receiving Chinese assurances that he will be allowed back into the country.
Feng Zhenghu, a 55-year-old economist, has been questioned and detained on many occasions for his human rights activism. He said in an interview Monday that he plans to arrive in Shanghai before the Chinese New Year, Feb. 14.
Chinese immigration authorities repeatedly refused to allow him back into the country, most recently bundling him onto a flight back to Tokyo in November—after which he simply refused to pass through immigration and camped for three months in the immigration area of Narita Airport.
“I will leave the airport on this coming Wednesday,” Feng said, without giving details of his third visit in the airport, on Saturday, with Chinese officials.
“Now I am still not sure of the particular date on which I will go back to China—I need to deal with many things, including the air ticket, and I am working on them hastily,” he said
“We Chinese always wish to celebrate New Year with family members at home, and this is why I set up the press conference for tomorrow. I will finish all relevant things in the airport and leave like a normal person,” Feng said.
He will enter Japan briefly to visit his sister, he said.
Feng’s self-imposed ordeal reprises elements of the Hollywood film The Terminal, in which a stateless man lives for years in an American airport.
Monday marked 90 days since Feng launched his protest in the Tokyo airport—drawing international attention through his blogs and Twitter postings, and prompting three visits by Chinese embassy officials.
As of Monday, he had some 14,000 Twitter followers.
On Sunday, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng told reporters that anyone entering China would be dealt with according to China’s border control law—suggesting a deal had been reached.
Feng initially traveled to Japan on April 1 for medical treatment, but was denied entry back into China, which deported him back to Japan on June 7. Three subsequent attempts at re-entry also failed.
He was also barred from boarding Shanghai-bound aircraft from Japan on four occasions after airport security staff told the airlines he was barred from China.
Feng, who has advocated for petitioners in recent years, has filed several lawsuits against Air China International and Northwest Airlines of the United States.
One U.S.-based Chinese dissident, Yang Jianli, organized what he called a “Tokyo Lift” campaign to ship basic necessities to Feng and organized more than 10 visits to Feng at the airport by activists from around the world.
In Shanghai, ordinary citizens, many of them retirees, have held relay hunger strikes to call attention to Feng’s suffering in Japan.
Well-known Chinese blogger Guo Weidong said Monday that Feng had “obtained his right to return by peaceful and persistent communication with the Chinese government.”
“By allowing Feng to return, China tried to save face because Shanghai hosts the World Expo this year.”
Reported by Xin Yu from Hong Kong and Nanzhou from Tokyo for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.