Thai immigration officer confirms Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong blacklisted at China’s request
In Facebook post right after returning to city, Wong describes incident as ‘really scary’, saying he had passport confiscated and communication with outside world cut off
A deputy commander at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport immigration office confirmed on Wednesday that immigration police had blacklisted Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung as requested by China.
The former Occupy movement leader was stopped at the airport when he attempted to visit Chulalongkorn University, a top Thai institution, to speak at an event. He was later put on a plane back to Hong Kong, a source told the Post.
Pol Col Pruthipong Prayoonsiri said China sent a request to the Thai government to seek its cooperation in denying Wong entry to the kingdom, Thai newspaper The Nation reported.
“As a result, the Immigration Bureau blacklisted him and held him for deportation. When officers informed him, Joshua Wong did not oppose it,” Pruthipong said.
Watch: Wong’s return to Hong Kong after Thailand detention
China’s foreign ministry broke its silence on the incident shortly after Thai media reports alleged that China asked Thailand not to allow Wong’s entry.
“I noted the relevant reports,” a spokesman for the ministry said. “China respects Thailand’s exercise of immigration control in accordance with the law.”
Wong’s Hong Kong Airlines flight departed at 11.40am on Wednesday and was due to arrive at 3.45pm.
“I was illegally detained by Thailand’s [immigration officers] after arriving at Bangkok last night. I had my passport confiscated and my communication with the outside world was cut off.
“I was immediately detained at the airport and managed to return to Hong Kong just now. The past 10 hours or so were really scary. I am sorry to let everyone worry about me,” he said in a Facebook post shortly after.
Hong Kong’s justice minister had earlier brushed off suggestions that China played a role in restricting Wong’s entry to Thailand, saying it was “purely” a domestic decision.
“On reports about Thailand being under pressure from China, first I have absolutely no information, and second, I personally do not believe such a matter would be an issue that requires international pressure,” Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said before departing for a duty visit in Bangkok.
It is “purely Thailand’s own handling” of an individual’s entry into the country as a tourist, Yuen said.
He added it was standard international practice for any country to exercise control measures at the border.
Hong Kong-based human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, who had advised Wong on previous occasions, said there was no legal basis to detain the activist other than for the period he was waiting to be put on a plane back because he had been rejected entry in Thailand.
“It would be difficult to think of any offence he would have committed to justify having detained him for another reason,” Vidler said.
He said it was “very possible” that Chinese authorities shared information with Thai authorities.
“In the worst case scenario, he may have been detained in Thailand at the request of the Chinese authorities, as appears to have been the case with one of the Hong Kong publishers,” Vidler said, referring to Gui Minhai, a bookseller who went missing in Thailand last year.
“We are talking about an authoritarian military regime that took power in a military coup,” he said. “One would hope this is simply the case of the military regime in Thailand not wanting Joshua to speak to Thai students about democracy and therefore simply refusing his entry ... but given recent events regarding Hong Kong publishers, naturally Hong Kong people have concerns that there are more serious reasons for Joshua being detained,” Vidler noted.
On Tuesday night, Wong took an Emirates flight, EK385, from Hong Kong and arrived at around 11.45pm local time in Bangkok.
He had been invited by Thai student activist Netiwit Chotipatpaisal to address politics students on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of a deadly government crackdown.
When Wong’s political party, Demosisto, was unable to contact him at Wednesday 4.18am Hong Kong time, Netiwit, who was supposed to meet Wong, told the political party that Wong had been detained.
“I waited for three hours, from 11pm to 2am,” Netiwit told the Post, adding that Wong “didn’t come out from the airport”.
Netiwit then inquired at the Emirates counter and was told that Wong had been detained. He went to the police station to find out why, trying to speak to the activist, but was rejected.
“The police said I don’t have any authority [to meet Wong]. They said China sent a letter to the Thai government to stop him [coming] to Thailand.”
While the activist was originally scheduled to address the students on Thursday, Netiwit said he had been looking for alternative means to pass on Wong’s message, such as asking him to give a speech via Skype.
The Sunday Morning Post earlier reported that Netiwit hoped Wong, who was expected to share his experience during the Occupy movement, could inspire young people to raise their voices in the military-led country.
The Thai student leader said there would be a gathering to show support for Wong at 11am Thai local time at Chulalongkorn University.
“We will hold up umbrellas,” he said.
Wong’s party earlier issued a statement calling for his immediate release.
“Demosisto strongly condemns the Thai government for unreasonably limiting Wong’s freedom and right to entry, and requests the immediate release of Wong,” the statement read.
They also requested that the Hong Kong Immigration Department assure Wong’s safety.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Demosisto’s chairman and a newly elected legislator, told Commercial Radio on Wednesday morning that Wong might have been detained due to his influential social activism.
“The Thai government might not want an internationally influential activist to go to Thailand now, as its government is facing a massive governing risk,” Law said.
“China is worried that Wong, an important leader in the Occupy movement, would bring [his] influence to other countries,” he added.
After the radio show, Law spoke again on the topic when meeting the press at the Legislative Council building.
“We hope that Yuen [will] raise concern[s] on Wong’s detention when meeting the Thai officials to safeguard the personal safety and human rights of overseas Hongkongers,” Law said.
The Thai government had not released any official information on Wong’s detention so far, he added.
Angela Gui, daughter of missing Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who went missing in Thailand last year and has yet to emerge, expressing concern
Extremely concerning & another case demonstrating China's growing disregard for borders. Hoping Joshua is okay. https://t.co/8lYWEX1eSc
— Angela Gui (@angelagui_) October 4, 2016
While Demosisto could not confirm whether mainland authorities had exerted pressure on Thailand over Wong’s visit, Law said his group had sought help from human rights groups and lawyers in Thailand to verify this.
“If it is true, it is rather outrageous for China to ban activists in such way,” he said.
A staff member at the Chinese embassy in Thailand said they had already given information about Wong’s case to Hong Kong’s Immigration Department. She said she could not provide any further information.
Wong’s detention was criticised by Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
“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,” she said.
Additional reporting by Phila Siu, Owen Fung and AP