[UPDATE: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 5.30pm]
A deputy commander at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport immigration office said on Wednesday that immigration police had blacklisted Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung as requested by China, Thai newspaper The Nation reported.
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.
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 arrived in Hong Kong around 3.33pm. In a Facebook post right after returning to city, Wong says he had his passport confiscated and communication with the outside world cut off.
“I was immediately detained at the airport and only managed to return to Hong Kong just now. The past 10 hours or so were really scary. More than 20 Thai custom officers came at me as soon as I laanded in Bangkok. I am sorry to anyone who worried about me,” he said.
Wong showed the media a document that Thai officers gave him and was told he had violated an immigration act, but he was not sure what laws he had breached.
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 that 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 noted,
He said that 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.
[UPDATE: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 2.10pm]
Demosisto confirms Joshua Wong is on his way back to Hong Kong.
"Demosisto has just been informed by the Hong Kong Immigration Department that Secretary General Joshua Wong has boarded Hong Kong Express Airways flight HX772 from Bangkok, Thailand, to Hong Kong. He is expected to arrive at 3:45 p.m. local time," read the group's statement.
Nathan Law and Wong will hold a press conference later tonight to address the incident.
[UPDATE: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 12.30pm]
Wong’s party has 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.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung is due to visit Bangkok today for a business trip.
He will lead a delegation of legal and dispute resolution professionals on a three-day visit to promote Hong Kong’s services in the legal and dispute resolution area. The team is expected to meet Thai officials to exchange views on the matter.
Nathan Law Kun-chung, Demosisto chairman and elected legislator, said the Hong Kong government should make use of Yuen’s trip to provide assistance to Wong.
He told the Commercial Radio on Wednesday morning that Wong might have been detained due to his influence in 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.
“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. Wong should be freed immediately and allowed to travel and exercise his right to free expression,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said.
Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, a Thai student activist who was supposed to meet Wong at the airport told the South China Morning Post: “I waited for three hours, from 11pm to 2am. [Wong] didn’t come out from the airport.”
He then inquired at the Emirates counter and was told that Wong had been detained. He went to the police station to find out why and to try and 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, Chotipatpaisal said he had been looking for alternative means to pass on Wong’s message, such as asking him to give a speech via Skype if he had been released back to Hong Kong.
Fellow Demosisto members might speak on his behalf via video call if Wong was still being held.
“I hope he can be sent back to Hong Kong,” Chotipatpaisal said.
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.
He expected many students to attend.
Meanwhile, Angela Gui, daughter of missing Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who went missing in Thailand last year and has yet to emerge, expressing concern.
[PUBLISHED: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 8am]
In the early hours of Wednesday, October 5, Demosisto released a statement on their Facebook page that says Joshua Wong has been detained by Thai authorities.
At 8.00 am, Wong has yet to be released. Stay with Young Post for updates.