A teenage Hong Kong student leader who helped organise massive pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-ruled city in 2014 was detained on arrival in Thailand on Wednesday and barred entry, immigration officials and supporters said, apparently at China's request.
Joshua Wong had been due to speak at an event on the anniversary of a Thai military crackdown on student protests 40 years ago, organisers said.
Wong, 19, was given 80 hours of community service by a Hong Kong court in August on a charge of unlawful assembly for taking part in a sit-in at the height of the protests in the Asian financial hub in September 2014.
The sit-in led by Wong and others in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters two years ago became the rallying point for the ‘umbrella movement’ that blocked major roads in the city for 79 days.
The protests in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, presented Communist Party rulers in Beijing with one of their biggest political challenges in decades.
Wong was invited by Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science to speak on the 40th anniversary of the bloody crackdown by the Thai army on student protesters. Organisers said Wong was detained when he arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday morning.
‘We spoke to immigration, who said that Wong was detained on the request of the Chinese government,’ Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a student and one of the organisers of the event, told Reuters
‘We do not agree with this action by the Thai government who are infringing on basic rights and stopping its citizens from acquiring knowledge about democracy.’
Immigration officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport confirmed to Reuters that Wong was prevented from entering Thailand and would be sent back to Hong Kong. Officials said they were under orders not to speak to the media about why Wong had been refused entry.
His arrest was condemned by the Human Rights Watch group.
‘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,’ Richardson, China Director for Human Rights Watch, said in an email.
‘Wong should be freed immediately and allowed to travel and exercise his right to free expression.’
Demosisto, the political party that Wong heads in Hong Kong, also called for his release.
‘I think China is doing everything they can to stop Hong Kong's democratic voices to spread to foreign civil societies,’ Agnes Chow, Demosisto's deputy secretary general, told Reuters.
Wong was denied entry by Malaysia in May 2015 when he was due to give a series of talks on democracy in China.
A Thai army crackdown on students on October 6, 1976, killed 46 people and brought back military rule.
Since coming into power in a 2014 coup, Thailand's military government has clamped down on dissent, arresting scores of students and activists.