Chinese activist allowed to return home after 3 months at Tokyo airport

By Elaine Kurtenbach
Saturday, February 13, 2010

SHANGHAI -- A Chinese activist who spent more than three months camped inside Tokyo's international airport as part of a protest flew back to China on Friday and was allowed into the country.

Feng Zhenghu arrived on a flight from Narita International Airport, where he stayed from early November until last week to protest China's refusal to let him return to his native country. Police met him at Shanghai's airport and escorted him out, first to lunch and then to his home.

"I'm so glad to be back in my own home," Feng told reporters gathered outside his apartment in northern Shanghai.

"Returning home is a basic right of any citizen," he said.

Feng's return to China comes after eight such attempts since June; Chinese authorities had refused to allow him in until now. Feng, a dissident writer and human rights activist, had angered the Shanghai government by supporting student protests and accusing local authorities of wrongdoing.

Feng, 55, returned just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, China's biggest holiday, with his family.

He said he planned to resume a "normal life" and had not agreed to any special conditions in return for being allowed to come back.

"I will do whatever I must do," he said. "The kind of person that I am, I would not agree to any conditions for returning home." Feng's predicament reflected the Chinese government's rejection of public dissent. Many activists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for nonviolent protests, and scores have been forced into exile.

But authorities seemed to be striving to handle Feng's arrival Friday relatively gently, allowing his supporters to gather at the airport and speak with reporters and later allowing journalists to interview Feng at his home.

Feng was jailed from 2000 to 2003 and was detained for several weeks in early 2009. He says he has been monitored and harassed by authorities for supporting Shanghai residents seeking redress in property disputes with the local government.

"Feng is great. He hasn't done anything wrong but help us fight for justice," said one of his supporters, Zhou Minwen.

Feng left China in April and began trying to return home in June. On his last attempt, he got as far as Shanghai's Pudong airport, where officials forced him to get back on a plane to Tokyo.

Despite holding a valid Chinese passport and a visa to enter Japan, Feng had refused to pass Japanese immigration control as a protest against China's government. He used a laptop computer and a cellphone to talk to supporters and post messages on blogs and social networking Web sites.

He survived on food and clothes provided by tourists passing through the airport and used a restroom sink for washing.

Chinese officials met with Feng at Narita airport in late January, and afterward he announced that he had received permission to go home. He left the airport to spend some time with relatives in Japan, where his son is a university student, before departing.

Asked about Feng's case at a recent news conference, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng would say only that everyone entering the country had to abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

-- Associated Press


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