BANGKOK >> Thai authorities, reportedly acting on a request from Beijing, detained a Hong Kong teen pro-democracy activist on his arrival at Bangkok’s airport in the latest sign of what rights groups said Wednesday is China pressuring neighbors as it tries to quash dissent at home and overseas.
Demosisto said in a Facebook post that the party was unable to contact Joshua Wong after he arrived at Bangkok’s main airport late Tuesday on his way to give a talk at a university.
The group said it got word early Wednesday from a Thai student activist who was expected to meet Wong that he had been detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport after Thai authorities received a request from the Chinese government about his visit.
Wong, who turns 20 next week, was one of the high-profile student leaders behind the huge pro-democracy street protests two years ago that marked the former British colony’s most turbulent period since China took control in 1997. In August, a Hong Kong court sentenced him to community service for his role in the protests, which closed down parts of the city for months.
There was no immediate comment from Thai authorities.
“Demosist strongly condemns the Thai government for unreasonably limiting Wong’s freedom and right to entry, and requests the immediate release of Wong,” the party’s Facebook post said.
The Thai student activist who was to have met Wong, Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, said in a Facebook post that Wong had “been confined at the immigration in Thailand because there’s a request from Chinese government to Thai authority.”
He did not immediately give any proof of such a request.
“I have not had a chance to speak to Wong since he was detained at the airport. I was told that he is still at the airport in Bangkok but will not be allowed in and will soon be deported,” Netiwit said.
Wong was also turned back in May 2015 when trying to enter Malaysia to speak at seminars in four cities. Malaysian officials said Wong was banned from entering the country but did not explain why.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to faxed questions.
Wong’s party, Demosisto, which was founded earlier this year, advocates a referendum on “self-determination” on the future status of Hong Kong, which is in the middle of a 50-year transition period to Chinese rule.
Human rights activists called for Wong’s release.
“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,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
Two years ago, Wong became one of the most prominent leaders of massive pro-democracy protests that shut down major thoroughfares in Hong Kong for 11 weeks. He and other youthful demonstrators demanded that the government drop a Beijing-backed plan to restrict elections for the city’s top leader, but their movement fizzled out after authorities refused to grant concessions.
Wong was scheduled to give a talk at Chulalongkorn University about a new generation of political activism. Last month, Demosisto scored a stunning Hong Kong election victory when its candidate, 23-year-old Nathan Law, won a seat in the legislature. Wong was unable to join the race because he is still too young, according to election rules.
The rejection of Wong comes during a politically sensitive time in Thailand, which has been run by the military since they seized power in a 2014 coup. The government has shown zero tolerance for dissent and has cracked down hard on its own student activists who have protested the military rule.