The “Umbrella Movement” of 2014 challenged the Chinese mainland’s relationship with Hong Kong. Source: Wikimedia
Thailand has barred a Hong Kong student activist from entering the kingdom, with Thailand’s Nation saying he had been deported and “blacklisted” at Beijing’s request.
Joshua Wong, 19, helped organise pro-democracy protests in 2014 and was held in Bangkok where he had been invited to speak at universities about Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” and on setting up his Demosisto political party.
Thailand’s junta has moved closer to China after being heavily criticised by western governments since the May 2014 coup. The country’s economic ties have also deepened in recent years.
“Once I got off the plane – before I got to the counter to queue to pass through immigration – right after I left the tarmac, there were already more than 20 customs officers and police receiving me,” Wong said on his return to Hong Kong. He told the media that the Thai authorities had not been given any reason other than a reference to a security law and a “blacklist”.
Wong was refused entry to Malaysia in May last year when he was due to talk about Chinese democracy.
“As a Hong Kong person, I did not expect that even if I do not enter mainland China, I would be inside a foreign detention centre, detained by other police. This is unbelievable,” Wong said.
Wong’s protests in Hong Kong were seen as one of the biggest challenges to Beijing’s “one country, two systems” policy.
He was given 80 hours’ community service by a Hong Kong court in August on a charge of unlawful assembly for joining a sit-in the city’s financial centre.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wong’s expulsion was a matter for China, not Thailand.
“Why he was sent back is China’s issue,” the premier said.
The Nation reported that a deputy commander of airport immigration police, Colonel Pruthipong Prayoonsiri, said China had sent a request “to seek cooperation to deny” Wong entry to Thailand.
“As a result, the Immigration Bureau blacklisted him and held him for deportation,” Pruthipong was quoted saying in the paper.
Pruthipong later denied speaking to the Nation.
It will raise concern in Hong Kong that Beijing is clamping down on dissent in the supposedly democratic entity.
In reference to the five Hong Kong booksellers, who specialised in criticism of China and disappeared only to emerge in custody on the Chinese mainland, Wong said: “I’m lucky I did not become the next person to disappear.”
Wong was invited by the politics department at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University to speak at the 40th anniversary of the bloody crackdown by the Thai authorities and royalist paramilitaries on student protests at Thammasat University.
Human Rights Watch condemned Wong’s detention.
“Thailand’s arrest of Joshua Wong … sadly suggests that Bangkok is willing to do Beijing’s bidding,” said Human Rights Watch’s China representative Sophie Richardson.