My Take

Love him or loathe him, Joshua Wong keeps Hong Kong in global political spotlight

Student activist could go old-school and travel to countries where he would be welcomed, but instead chooses places where he is bound to be kicked out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 12:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

Joshua Wong Chi-fung has a habit of visiting countries that deny him entry. Whether Thailand kept the student leader out at the urging of China or did it on its own is a somewhat academic question. One way or another, Thailand, like a few other countries in Asia, is happy to do it.

Wong flew to Bangkok last week at the invitation of students at Chulalongkorn University to talk about democracy but was detained at the airport before being sent back to Hong Kong. This was not the first time. Last year, he tried to visit Malaysia and was kicked out.

Blacklisted: Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong deported from Thailand at Beijing’s request

Perhaps he should take a lesson from seasoned pros like Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Martin Lee Chu-ming, who only visit friendly countries where they are guaranteed a red-carpet treatment.

Both are visiting Australia. Their purpose? If you are a pan-democrat, they are there to make the case for Hong Kong’s autonomy. If you are in the pro-establishment camp, it’s to bad-mouth Beijing and the Hong Kong government.

No matter. Both are usually treated like state leaders on semi-official visits. They will meet Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and other political leaders.

Two years ago while on a similar visit to Washington, they had a sit-down with US Vice-President Joe Biden and House Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi.

Wong doesn’t have the same statesman-like standing as Chan and Lee on the international stage, but his name recognition is getting there.

He may not receive the same diplomatic treatment in the capitals of the Western world, but he can be sure he will be let in.

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

On the other hand, maybe Wong is cleverer than many of his detractors. If he visits those Western countries, he probably gets to make a few speeches on university campuses but is unlikely to be offered a photo op with important people like Biden and Bishop.

But if he visits Asian countries and gets ejected like he did in Thailand, he is guaranteed a whole news cycle. His brief detention at the Thai airport was reported in major foreign news outlets.

But who knows Chan and Lee have been on a visit to Australia – unless you read The Sydney Morning Herald?

For better or worse, this 19-year-old is raising the city’s international profile more effectively than those two old-timers.