Radio Free Asia: After Refusing to Allow Activist Home, China Now Bans Him From Leaving

Radio Free Asia

A Shanghai-based rights activist who once spent months camped out at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport after being repeatedly denied re-entry to China has now been refused permission to leave, he told RFA on Tuesday.

Feng Zhenghu, a prominent economist-turned-activist, spent 92 days camped out in the Tokyo airport’s immigration hall in 2009-2010 before finally being allowed back home to China following an overseas trip.

Now, he has been told he can’t leave China.

Feng Zhenghu is shown at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport
Oct. 5, 2015.

Photo courtesy of Zhenghu

“This is the first time I have tried to leave the country in five years, and I had thought there wouldn’t be a problem,” Fen told RFA on Tuesday after being refused permission to board China Airlines flight CA919 to Japan, at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

“The excuse given by the Beijing police department said that [my departure] would likely harm state security,” he said.

Feng’s friend Chen Qiyong said he had tried to remain in contact with Feng inside the airport, but that all calls had been cut off.

“When he came out, he said that the state security police wouldn’t let him use his phone,” Chen said. “They also said it was a decision that came down from Beijing.”

Nationwide operation

Feng said he believes the travel ban is part of a nationwide police operation targeting lawyers and rights defenders who use the legal system.

“I think this has to do with the continuation of the huge operation to detain and summon lawyers, as well as rights activists,” he said.

According to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, at least 288 lawyers, law firm staff, human right activists, and family members have been detained, questioned by police, forbidden to leave the country, held under residential surveillance, or are simply missing.

While 255 have since been released, the rest remain under some form of surveillance or criminal detention in a crackdown that began with the detention of Beijing-based rights lawyer Wang Yu and her colleagues at the Fengrui law firm on the night of July 9-10, it said.

Others barred from leaving

Guangdong-based rights lawyer Liu Zhengqing, who was himself prevented from leaving China last month, said more than a dozen people have been declined permission to leave for exactly the same reason in recent weeks.

Rights lawyer Wen Donghai said that authorities have acted illegally in preventing people from leaving the country.

“It is the right of a citizen to have the freedom to travel, and the government has no power to interfere,” Wen said. “But they are using the trumped-up excuse of state security to stop them.”

He cited the case of Wang Yu’s teenaged son Bao Mengmeng, who was refused permission to leave China to study overseas.

“I am extremely angry about that … but it is unlikely that he will try again, because he’s just a kid, and his parents are detained right now,” Wen said.

Since being allowed home in 2010, Feng has continued to speak out on behalf of petitioners, ordinary Chinese who pursue complaints about the government, often for decades and in spite of extrajudicial detentions, beatings, and other forms of mistreatment.

In 2012, the authorities detained him without legal procedure for 268 days under house arrest at his Shanghai apartment.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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