A Chinese activist who spent nearly 90 days camping out at Narita airport after being barred multiple times from going home said Sunday that he was ending his protest after Chinese officials visited him.
Feng Zhenghu has been living in Narita International Airport since early November to protest China’s refusal to let him return to his homeland from Japan.
He angered the Chinese government by writing about the alleged wrongdoings of local authorities and by supporting student protests. Amnesty International describes Feng, who spent three years in prison, as a prominent human rights defender.
Feng, who has a valid Chinese passport and a visa to enter Japan, was free to leave the airport but refused to pass through immigration control.
His decision to end the protest came after Chinese officials visited him at the airport last week for the first time since he started camping out.
“Chinese Embassy officials came to see me several times. Now they seem to acknowledge the problem,” Feng said from the airport terminal via cell phone. “I’ve decided to enter Japan, pull myself together and return to Shanghai for the Chinese New Year.”
Feng has been denied from entering China eight times since June. On the last of his attempts to return last year, he got as far as Shanghai’s Pudong airport, where Chinese officials forced him to get back on a plane for Tokyo, which arrived Nov. 4.
Since then, Feng has staged a peaceful but prolonged protest at the airport via cell phone and laptop, talking to supporters and posting blogs and tweets on Twitter.
Feng said Sunday that he planned to stay with his sister, who is married to a Japanese man and lives near Tokyo, until the middle of this month.
“I believe next time I can return home,” Feng said without elaborating. He declined to say if the diplomats promised to guarantee his re-entry. “As a Chinese citizen, I have a right to return home.”
Using Twitter on Sunday, he wrote that the Chinese officials “sincerely” showed their diplomatic concern and said “I will respond with sincerity as well.” He said he will formally announce his decision Tuesday before entering Japan.
As word of Feng’s predicament spread, he became something of a celebrity, bringing about a situation reminiscent of “The Terminal,” the Tom Hanks movie about a stateless man stuck at New York’s Kennedy Airport.
“Life here has been tough,” he said. “I think I’ve done enough.”