NARITA, Japan — A Chinese activist who has spent more than three months living inside Tokyo's international airport said Tuesday that Chinese officials have given him permission to return home.
Feng Zhenghu has been camping out at Narita International Airport since early November to protest China's refusal to let him enter his homeland. Feng had angered the Chinese government with writings on alleged wrongdoing by local authorities and for supporting student protests.
Feng had already announced Sunday that he had decided to end his protest after meeting with officials from the Chinese Embassy last week. But it wasn't clear until Tuesday whether China would allow him to re-enter the country – he had been denied entry eight times since June, prompting his protest.
"Chinese officials told me that they are giving me permission to go back to Shanghai," Feng, 55, told reporters Tuesday at the airport terminal, where reporters were allowed in by security.
He said he planned to enter Japan on Wednesday before heading back to Shanghai for the Chinese New Year in mid-February.
Feng said Tuesday that he was certain that this attempt to return home would be successful.
"I won't be rejected again. That would be impossible," he said. "If that happens, it's not my problem. It's the Chinese government's problem."
On his last attempt to return, 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.
Despite holding a valid Chinese passport and a visa to enter Japan, Feng refused to pass immigration control as a protest against China's government. He used a laptop and mobile phone to talk to supporters and post on blogs and social networking sites such as Twitter.
Amnesty International describes Feng, who spent three years in prison, as a prominent human rights defender.
As word of Feng's predicament spread, he became something of a celebrity, with his situation reminiscent of that of the stateless man played by Tom Hanks who was stuck at an airport in the movie "The Terminal."
Staying in a restricted area near immigration control, Feng had no access to vending machines or a food court and survived on food and clothes provided by tourists passing by. He used a sink inside a restroom to wash himself.
"After staying here for more than 90 days, I kind of miss this place," said Feng, wearing a black sweat suit donated by a supporter. But now he is ready to leave, Feng said.
"I want to take a bath," he said. "That's what I want to do as soon as I leave here."