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Occupy Central

Did Beijing tell Thai authorities to bar activist? Message ‘lost in translation’, Hong Kong’s justice minister says

Occupy leader Joshua Wong dismisses remarks by Rimsky Yuen as top Thai police official denies there was any pressure to turn away the young radical

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 2016, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 12:00am

Hong Kong’s justice minister blamed “differences in translation” for confusion over whether the Thai prime minister admitted China’s role in stopping student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung from entering Bangkok.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung’s remarks, which Wong dismissed as irrelevant, came as Thai police were quoted as saying that Beijing had not requested that the 19-year-old be sent back to Hong Kong after he was detained at Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday and held in solitary confinement for more than 10 hours.

Wong had flown to Thailand to deliver a speech on democracy for university students. The talk coincided with the 40th anniversary of a deadly government crackdown in Bangkok.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had been quoted as saying that “officials there [in China] have requested to take him back. It’s Chinese officials’ business”.

After a visit to Bangkok promoting legal business on Friday, Yuen cited a Thai junta spokesman’s public statement that Thai authorities were not subject to instructions from other countries when sending Wong home.

“I think what the Thai prime minister said was it was a matter for China,” Yuen said. “From what I’ve seen, there seems to be different translations. I have not been in a position to clarify the differences in translation.”

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Yuen, though, was referring only to the part “it’s Chinese officials’ business”. He made no reference to Prayuth’s comment that “officials there have requested to take him back”.

On the day Wong was detained, the justice secretary said the case would not have triggered international pressure for action. He did not respond to media questions on Friday night on whether he stood by that position.

He could have asked Thailand why I was not allowed to seek legal advice, call Hong Kong immigration or contact my family
Joshua Wong Chi-fung

Wong said he was not provided with a translator and spent the night in a 50 sq ft cell, away from other detainees. He was given water and food. The activist, who subsequently gave a video speech from Hong Kong to students at Chulalongkorn University, criticised Yuen for missing the “core question”.

“He could have asked Thailand why I was not allowed to seek legal advice, call Hong Kong immigration or contact my family,” Wong told the Post.

“Does Secretary Yuen think agencies like Bloomberg and Reuters mistranslated the prime minister?” he added, referring to media that reported the quotes that were challenged by Yuen.

Watch: Thai students protest deportation of Joshua Wong

Yuen said Thai officials had made it clear they rejected Wong’s entry with reference to his past activities – Wong was a key student leader in the 2014 Occupy movements that paralysed the city for nearly three months. Yuen said people should accept that every country had a right to exercise immigration control, even though “one may agree, one may disagree”.

Thailand’s deputy police commander, Sriwara Rangsipramanakul, was quoted by Thai media as saying there was no pressure from any country. He said Wong’s detention was purely a decision taken by Thailand’s Immigration Office, according to a report by Matichon Online on Friday.

On Thursday, as Wong was giving a video speech from Hong Kong, students at the Bangkok campus had their umbrellas seized by police. Occupy protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves against police pepper spray and they became a symbol of the movement.

“It is very normal in Thailand,” Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, the student leader who invited Wong, said of the action by Thai police.