The Untouchable Daughter

Tang Zhengqi is lying quietly in a hospital bed in Tokyo, on an artificial ventilator to keep her alive. She has been suffering from severe tuberculous meningitis and has been unconscious for more than a month. During a previous surgery, a tube was inserted from Zhengqi’s brain to her peritoneum to relieve the symptoms of hydrocephalus. Doctors reported that she had almost lost brainstem function, with only her brain retaining some function and detectable brain waves.

The 25-year-old girl looked no different from many Chinese students studying in Japan: studying Japanese at a language school, preparing to apply to a Japanese university, and happily announcing after the results of her N1 exam that she had “succeeded in her walk After the results of the N1 exam, she happily announced that she had “succeeded in her walk”. (N1 is the top level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and successful walk is a code word for ‘passed’ among candidates. Her nickname is Kiki, the same as the name of the main character in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime “The Witch’s House” who left her parents to go to a foreign country to do witch training. Her WeChat avatar is a watercolor painting of a girl in a red dress, the cover of her circle of friends is her own back holding cherry blossoms, she said in her circle of friends want to eat fruit fish, daily updates will see the sunrise on the beach in Japan, shrines, old grandparents open small and small food stores, and occasionally send a few selfies. On April 30, 2021, she fell ill in her apartment, and it was only then that her teachers and friends in Japan learned of Masaki’s identity as the daughter of a human rights lawyer.

Her father, Tang Jitian, was a human rights lawyer who defended AIDS victims, melamine victims, residents whose land had been illegally expropriated, and other vulnerable groups, and who in 2010 was suspended by the Beijing Judicial Bureau for “disrupting court order He was suspended from practicing law by the Beijing Judicial Bureau in 2010 for “disturbing court order” and has been under the focus of state security since then.

After learning of his daughter’s accident, Tang Jitian bought a ticket to Japan, even though he had previously been stopped from traveling to Hong Kong to see a doctor, and friends had told him there was a 98 percent chance he wouldn’t make it. “I had to try, one more step for me, one step closer to my child.” The Japanese government urgently applied for a visa for him on humanitarian grounds, and Tang used all kinds of connections to ask the National Security Bureau if he could leave the country to visit his daughter, and went to the Beijing Public Security Bureau on May 19 to submit a petition, all without response.

“I was holding the wish that I would definitely be able to go. “On June 1, Tang Jitian departed, planning to fly from Beijing to Fuzhou and then to Tokyo, but he was unexpectedly blocked at Beijing Daxing Airport. The staff of Xiamen Airlines did not allow him to board the plane because the Fuzhou border control informed them that “Tang Jitian did not meet the exit requirements and insisted on going to Fuzhou or would be stopped on the next trip. “. By this time, the boarding time had already passed, but with the help of the Japanese journalists accompanying him, Tang Jitian argued his case and boarded the plane to Fuzhou. Friends joked that he was getting the “VIP treatment” because some flights in China are delayed not because of weather or air control, but because of heavyweights It was the heavyweights who were dragging their feet.

Tang Jitian’s desire to be closer to his daughter was dashed the following day. Upon arrival at Fuzhou Airport, he was taken to the questioning room by border control, where police officers, after communicating with the plainclothes look-alike who had been following him, verbally announced to Tang Jitian that “according to Article 12(5) of the Exit and Entry Administration Law (i.e., it may endanger national security and interests and the relevant competent department of the State Council decides not to allow him to leave the country) Tang Jitian was not allowed to leave the country”. Xiamen Airlines staff even tore off Tang Jitian’s boarding pass and threw it in the trash.

On June 28, he saw his daughter’s face through a video call. “Rest well, heal well, recover quickly, and I hope to see you sooner,” Tang Jitian began sniffling as soon as the call was answered. Zhengqi seemed to respond somewhat to her father’s call, blinking her swollen eyes. Her father, 2,100 kilometers away, wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes with his hand.

Masaki collapsed in her solitary apartment in Tokyo

At 9 p.m. on April 30, Tomoko Agu arrived at the door of Masaki’s apartment, having received a message from Yoshida Tang that she had been unable to contact Masaki for several days. Earlier, Masaki had told Tang Yoshida that she was not feeling well and kept coughing. He felt that the situation was very bad and urgently asked Tomoko to visit his daughter’s apartment.

Tomoko Agu, a professor at the University of Tokyo who does research on modern China, met many human rights lawyers, investigative journalists and scholars in the 2000s when she worked as a special investigator at the Beijing embassy in Japan, and in 2008, Tang Yoshida was the main sponsor of the direct election of the Beijing Bar Association. This is how Tomoko Agu got to know Tang Yoshida, and she often asked him about his observations and analysis of Chinese society, “He understands the internal power structure in China, and Tang Yoshida’s words are more trustworthy “. When Masaki was coming to Japan to study, Tang Yoshida asked Agu, who had already become a friend, to take care of his daughter.

The police officers felt the vent under the door and found hot air coming out, so they guessed that the heating was on inside and she must be there. After an hour, they finally heard a small voice saying that there was a key in the mailbox at the door, and gave the mailbox password. They pushed the door open and found Masaki on the floor near the door, unable to move.

Tomoko Agu and the police immediately called an ambulance. “She was very weak, and her consciousness was sometimes not very clear. One moment she said she wanted to sleep, and the next she said she had a backache and headache, and she felt very cold, and she couldn’t take it anymore.” Agu said that Tokyo was warm at the end of April, with an average temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius, and Masaki must have been very weak to turn on the air conditioning.

The ambulance arrived quickly, but the epidemic caused a shortage of beds, and although Masaki’s COVID-19 nucleic acid test was negative, her status as a foreigner, her fever symptoms, and the possibility of infectious tuberculosis made general hospitals avoid her. Masaki waited in the ambulance for almost three hours while the paramedics went from hospital to hospital, going around three wards before finally finding a hospital in Chuo-ku, Tokyo, with excellent medical standards that would accept her.

That day, it was 6:30 a.m. when Tomoko Agu had finished all the tests at the hospital. Don Yoshida sat on a mattress at a friend’s house all night waiting for news. After confirming his daughter’s admission, his heart only relaxed a little, slightly crooked, dozed off on the dawn, “those days can not contact her, the heart is not secure, sleep is not good “.

This year she has to get into college

Knowing that Agu had not slept all night, just hospitalized Zhengqi sent a message to Agu to let her sleep well and drink more hot water. “She’s sick herself and worried about others.”

“She is more self-reliant and doesn’t want to cause trouble for others”, is the impression that Tomoko Agu has of Masaki. “Don Yoshida is also the same”. Agu said, shouting Zhengqi to come home for dinner, one of the three times is not coming, “she does not want to give me trouble”. Agu knows that Zhengqi family economic conditions are not too good, asked her if she wanted to live in their own home to save money, Zhengqi refused.

Since Masaki came to Tokyo to study alone in the spring of 2019, she has been living a life of attending classes at a language school on weekdays and working at a McDonald’s on weekends, earning about 1,200 yen (about 70 yuan) an hour. The apartment she rented in Tokyo was the cheapest 1R (a one-room apartment without a separate bedroom and kitchen) in Japan, and was located in Katsushika-ku, the most marginal and cheapest of Tokyo’s 23 wards.

Masaki had told Agu that she wanted to study psychology and sociology, especially girls in poor areas who lacked access to education. She wrote in her application form that she wanted to start an NGO to support girls’ schooling, because the number of universities with sociology and psychology programs was limited, and because many universities required English grades even though Masaki had passed the N1 exam. The language school visa is only for 2 years, and Masaki failed to get into her desired university in FY2020, which she had to do this year.

The language school class teacher, her father Tang Yoshida, and the Masaki that Tomoko Agu remembers all share the same trait of loving to read and study. Many Chinese children come to Agu’s house and know that Agu has studied Chinese since her undergraduate studies and has taken a doctoral course in education at the University of Hong Kong, so she is fluent in Chinese and therefore does not speak Japanese. But Masaki does her best to speak Japanese with Agu, “I speak to her in Chinese and she speaks back to me in Japanese.”

In 2006, Tang Jitian to work in Shenzhen, Zhengqi followed her father from Jilin Yanji transfer to Shenzhen for a period of elementary school, living in an urban village very close to the Futian port. “She was happier and more excited than in her hometown, and suddenly from Yanji, a remote city, to the city of Shenzhen, is indeed colorful.” And Zhengqi’s favorite place is the book city near home, sometimes Tang Jitian will also take her to the Shenzhen Center Bookstore, “she is very involved in reading books, I call her, she can not hear”. She reads science fiction fairy tales, history books, martial arts, romance, “hiding in the room with a flashlight to read books, so much so that her eyesight has deteriorated”. The class teacher at the language school also said that Zhengqi never missed a single class, and that she was very attentive in class and received a perfect attendance award from the language school.

When she was first admitted to the hospital, Zhengqi was also able to send a message to her father, saying that she had asked the hospital for a wheelchair and wanted to move around properly to maintain her physical fitness, “and that it wasn’t a waste. She and her father said it was a lesson that she should take more care of her body. “She said she was still young and could get through this and told me to take care of my body because I had been sick and injured and was not in good physical condition”.

In February 2011, after the Chinese Jasmine Revolution, Tang Jitian was illegally detained for 20 days. in Beijing in winter, with the air conditioning cold behind the interrogation chairs, and deprived of sleep and adequate food, Tang Jitian had a runny nose, shivering, and blood in his coughing sputum. when he was sent back to Yanji in March, he was very weak and had lost more than 30 pounds. “Kiki’s mother said I was fished back from the refining furnace,” and acquaintances who met him on the street said his face looked like a dead man. In Yanji City Hospital, Tang Jitian was diagnosed with tuberculosis.