Wed Oct 5, 2016 | 12:42am EDT
Thailand on Wednesday barred entry to a Hong Kong student activist who helped organize pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-ruled city in 2014, with his supporters blaming China for the move.
Bespectacled Joshua Wong, 19, was detained in Bangkok where he had been invited to speak at two universities about Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” street protests and on setting up his political party, Demosisto.
The protests in Hong Kong, the former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, presented Communist Party rulers in Beijing with one of their biggest political headaches in decades.
Wong was given 80 hours of community service by a Hong Kong court in August on a charge of unlawful assembly for taking part in a sit-in at the height of the protests in the Asian financial hub.
Thailand has been ruled by a junta since a 2014 coup which was widely condemned by the West. Since then, the generals running Thailand have forged closer ties with Beijing.
The Thai Foreign Ministry said in a statement permission for Wong to enter Thailand “involves various factors”. It added that it was standard practice for the airline involved in flying an individual to a place to take him or her back if denied entry.
Wong took an Emirates flight from Hong Kong on Tuesday night and arrived in Bangkok just before midnight local time.
China’s Foreign Ministry, when asked about Wong’s detention, said it had “noticed the relevant reports”.
“China respects Thailand’s exercise of immigration control according to the law,” it said in an email.
Wong said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night that he was concerned about his trip to Bangkok.
“We all know Thailand is not politically stable… It is also clear that it is close to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
Wong was denied entry by Malaysia in May 2015 when he was due to give a series of talks on democracy in China.
Wong was invited by Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science to speak on the 40th anniversary of the bloody crackdown by the Thai army on student protesters. Organizers said he was detained at Bangkok’s main airport on Wednesday morning.
Immigration officials confirmed to Reuters that Wong was prevented from entering Thailand and would be sent back to Hong Kong. Officials said they were under orders not to speak to the media about why Wong had been refused entry.
Human Rights Watch condemned Wong’s detention.
“Thailand’s arrest of Joshua Wong, a well-known pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, sadly suggests that Bangkok is willing to do Beijing’s bidding,” Sophie Richardson, China Director for Human Rights Watch, said in an email.
Demosisto, the political party that Wong heads in Hong Kong, also called for his release.
Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, is slowly recovering from the events of 2014, when months of street protests and the coup almost brought economic activity to a standstill.
Since then, the military has clamped down on dissent and banned political protests.
(Writing and additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie)
Joshua Wong, Pro-Democracy Leader in Hong Kong, Is Detained in Bangkok
BEIJING — Joshua Wong, who was a prominent leader of the 2014 pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong, was detained at the international airport in Bangkok early Wednesday, according to a statement from his political party.
The party, Demosisto, which the 19-year-old activist had recently helped to establish, said that Mr. Wong had arrived in Thailand at 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday on an Emirates flight. He had been invited to speak at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
Tags: Bangkok, Chinese Communist Party, Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science, Demosisto, Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, human rights, Human Rights Watch, immigration control, Joshua Wong, pro-democracy, Thailand