Chinese activist Feng Zhenghu occupies Tokyo airport, ends his own exile from China, 2009-2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
4 November
2009
to
2 February
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Japan
Country: 
China
Location City/State/Province: 
Narita, Chiba Prefecture
Location Description: 
Narita Airport
Goals: 
Feng Zhenghu's goal was to return home to Shanghai.
 

Feng Zhenghu is a Chinese human rights activist who openly supported the pro-democracy movement that ended in the Tiananmen Square Crackdown of 1989. In the 1990s, Feng studied and worked in Japan. Upon his return to Shanghai in 2000, the Shanghai government sentenced him to 3 years in prison for “illegal business activities.” After leaving jail, Feng became a self-taught lawyer and advocate of the rule of law, offering legal assistance to underprivileged Shanghai residents. Just before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown, the government pressured him into leaving the country, effectively forcing him into permanent exile. Feng left China to visit Japan in April 2009 and attempted to return to China in June; however, in four instances, Japanese airlines and US-based Northwest Airlines denied him boarding passes on orders from the Chinese government. Feng managed to reach Pudong Airport in Shanghai 4 times, but was forcibly sent back to Tokyo every time. After the fourth failed attempt to return home, Feng decided to stage an occupation at Narita Airport in Japan to protest China’s refusal to let him return to his home country.

Feng began the one-man occupation campaign on 4 November 2009 right before the immigration checkpoint in Narita Airport near Tokyo. He set up a handwritten sign reading “Stuck here is a Chinese citizen who exposed corruption, helped the poor and had been denied entry into China 8 times” and wore shirts that spelled out his predicament in both English and Chinese. For 92 days Feng slept in a narrow, steel bench and lived off food donated by passersby and supporters. He had no access to food or stores in the airport because they were past the immigration checkpoint, and he only had access to a small bathroom in which he could wash. Feng used his cell phone and laptop to stay connected to the outside world by blogging and writing posts on a Twitter account set up for him by Chinese volunteers.

At first, Japanese airport officials refused to help Feng buy food past the checkpoint. However, they eventually allowed him to use his cell phone in a no-phone zone and designated an area for media interviews with him. They also chose not to force Feng out of the airport despite the fact that he had a valid Japanese visa. Some staff even referred to him as their friend, saying that they wanted him to enter Japan only if he was willing.

Through the internet, Feng drew many international supporters, including airline crews, who visited him and gave him food and gifts. Feng even drew over 5,000 followers on Twitter who began a donation fund for him.

On 27 January 2010 two officials from the Chinese Embassy in Japan, Mr. Du and Consular Zhao, met with Feng to negotiate the terms of his return to China. They offered three terms: 1. The issue of the Shanghai government needing to apologize did not exist; 2. Feng’s re-entry is approved, but the exact date will be determined after Feng enters Japan; 3. Whether or not Feng is allowed to attend the International Expo in Shanghai depends on his behavior. Feng rejected all three points and decided to continue his protest indefinitely. Supporters continued to visit and bring him gifts of food, toiletries, and books. One supporter even donated a laptop.

Mr. Du and Consular Zhao, met with Feng again on 30 January. This time, they agreed that returning to his or her home country is a citizen’s right. With that determined, they saw that there was no longer any need to negotiate. The next day on 31 January, Feng announced that he would end his protest on 2 February 2010.

Feng Zhenghu successfully returned to Shanghai on 12 February 2010 after living in Narita Airport for 92 days.

Since 27 February 2012, Feng Zhenghu has been under house arrest in his 3rd floor apartment in Shanghai. Chinese police have prevented his family from visiting him. Unable to go out to buy food, Feng lowered from his balcony a basket on a rope so that supporters could donate food every few days and he could pull them up. Currently, his detainment is indefinite.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Jiang, Steven. "Feng Zhenghu: Changing China from Terminal 1." CBS News. 30 Nov 2009. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-5834483-503543.html>.

Buerk, Roland. "China activist in for long haul at Tokyo airport." BBC News. 10 Dec 2009. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8403658.stm>.

Xiao, Qiang. "Chinese Officials Visit Feng Zhenghu in Narita Airport, and Feng’s Public Reply." China Digital Times. 29 Jan 2010. Web. 25 Nov 2012.

Xiao, Qiang. "Feng Zhenghu (冯正虎) to End His Protest." China Digital Times. 30 Jan 2010. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/01/feng-zhenghu-to-end-his-protest/>.

"China activist leaves after 92-day Narita protest." The Japan Times. 13 Feb 2010. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20100213a3.html>.

"China: Human rights defender Mr Feng Zhenghu enters fifth month of house arrest." Front Line Defenders. 28 June 2012. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/18784>.

Branigan, Tania. "Chinese activist Feng Zhenghu held under Shanghai house arrest." The Guardian. 11 June 2012. Web. 25 Nov 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/11/chinese-activist-feng-zhenghu-house>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Iris Fang, 25/11/2012