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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong asks Beijing deputy at heated talk: will you follow up on what happened to me in Thailand?

Executive councillor Ip Kwok-him claims Wong was not deprived of his rights during 12-hour detention in Bangkok and deportation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

A Hong Kong executive councillor has drawn fire at a forum after claiming activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was “not deprived of his rights” when he was detained in Bangkok for hours last week.

Ip Kwok-him also said he would not follow up on Wong’s case in his capacity as a local deputy of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, because in his view Thailand was “only exercising its immigration policy”.

“I think people understand why Wong was banned from entering the country,” Ip said, in an apparent reference to the student’s leading role in the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

Wong arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to deliver a speech on democracy to students. But his visit coincided with the 40th anniversary of a deadly government crackdown in Bangkok, and the 19 year old was denied entry, detained for 12 hours and sent back to Hong Kong that day.

Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was quoted as saying on Wednesday that “officials there [in China] have requested to take [Wong] back. It’s Chinese officials’ business”.

Two days later, Hong Kong’s justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung blamed “differences in translation” for confusion over whether the Thai leader had admitted Beijing’s role in stopping Wong.

I was detained in a 50 sq ft cell for 12 hours ... will you follow up on the matter as an NPC deputy?
Joshua Wong Chi-fung asking Ip Kwok-him

In a heated debate on RTHK’s City Forum yesterday , Wong said Hong Kong security minister Lai Tung-kwok should explain how a Hong Kong passport holder should be treated by foreign authorities.

Directing a question to Ip, Wong said: “I was detained in a 50 sq ft cell for 12 hours, and I was not allowed to call a lawyer, my family or the Hong Kong Immigration Department ... will you follow up on the matter as an NPC deputy?”

Ip replied: “No, because different countries have their immigration arrangements ... I don’t think they were depriving you of your rights.”

Pro-establishment lawmaker and lawyer Paul Tse Wai-chun also weighed in. “Mr Wong, I hope you can learn a lesson and stop being so arrogant,” he said.

“On a recent trip to Hawaii, I spent more than an hour answering immigration officers’ questions because I have an Iranian visa and had visited the Muslim country,” he added.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, also appearing on the programme, rejected the arguments of the pro-Beijing pair .

“Now I understand why Hongkongers dislike NPC deputies so much,” he said. “I think Beijing should look into whether any official told Bangkok to deny Wong from entering Thailand.”

In light of the Thai prime minister’s remarks, Yuen said there was a subsequent statement from a junta spokesman that denied the involvement of foreign governments.

That description of the sequence, however, was wrong, according to two Thai journalists the Post contacted on Saturday.

At 1pm on Wednesday in Bangkok – some 80 minutes after Wong was escorted to a Hong Kong-bound plane at 11.40am –a Thai government spokesman released a statement denying the role of foreign governments. Prayuth made his comments at 3.15pm, the journalists said.

A Hong Kong justice department spokeswoman, presented with the journalists’ account on Saturday, said Yuen acted on the basis of information made available to him.

Asked if Prayuth’s comments would require Yuen to follow up with mainland authorities, the spokeswoman insisted the Thai spokesman’s statement “remained the position of the Thai government”.