Wednesday, October 5, 2016

19 year-old Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong barred entry into Bangkok 'at China's request'

NB: Nothing exposes the brittle nature of totalitarian tyranny more than the vision of'the People's Republic of China sabotaging a 19 year-old activists' entry into Thailand because he speaks of human rights and democracy. Shame on the Chinese Communist Party! Masters of a world power are running scared of one young man because he shows you up for what you are! Tyrants! DS

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Hong Kong’s best-known democracy campaigner, Joshua Wong, has accused Thailand’s military junta of political “suppression” after he was barred from entering the country, apparently after Beijing asked for his name to be placed on a travel blacklist.

Speaking after arriving back in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon, the teenage activist described how he had spent almost 12 hours inside a detention centre at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport after he was picked up by Thai police when he landed in Bangkok the previous night. 

Wong, 19, who became an international symbol of the fight for democracy during Hong Kong’s 2014 umbrella movement street protests, said about 20 police officers had taken him into custody at about midnight on Tuesday. “For almost 12 hours I was detained alone inside a cell,” he told reporters. “When I asked what the reason for them detaining me … they just said: ‘We will not give you any explanation. You have been blacklisted already.’ “When I requested to contact my lawyer in Thailand or at least notify my parents that I had already arrived in Bangkok, they still rejected my request,” he added. “

It is really out of my expectation to have this kind of suppression from the Thailand government. For me, I think this is illegal detention.” Wong touched down in Hong Kong at about 3.40pm on Wednesday having spent the night being questioned at Suvarnabhumi airport. The activist had been due to speak about his quest for democracy at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Thursday.

His speech was to be part of events marking the 40th anniversary of a massacre of pro-democracy students by Thai security forces and royalist militias in 1976. However, Pruthipong Prayoonsiri, the deputy commander of the Suvarnabhumi immigration office, told Thailand’s the Nation website that China had sent a request for Wong’s entry to be denied. “As a result, the immigration bureau blacklisted him and held him for deportation. When officers informed him, Joshua Wong did not oppose it,” Pruthipong was quoted as saying.

According to a Thai security report obtained by the Associated Press, more than 10 police officers, including some from the Royal Thai Police special branch, were waiting for Wong when he arrived.
The activist was interrogated and told he could not use his smartphone or laptop, the report added. Wong’s supporters said he had been held “incommunicado” by Thai police.

At just before noon on Wednesday, almost 12 hours after he was detained, Wong was put on a Hong Kong Airlines flight from Bangkok back to the former British colony. Speaking at the airport, Wong said he had hoped to share his political points of view with Thai students and was “totally disappointed” with his treatment.

On Wednesday afternoon the Thai junta released what appeared to be a contradictory statement saying “there had been no instruction or order given pertaining to Mr Wong” but then explaining why he had been detained and deported. “Mr Wong had been active in resistance movements against other foreign governments, and that if such actions were taken within Thailand, they could eventually affect Thailand’s relations with other nations,” said spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Earlier on Wednesday supporters gathered outside the Thai consulate in Hong Kong holding placards that read “Shame on Thai government” and “Stop human rights violation”. Agnes Chow, the deputy general secretary of Wong’s political party, said she believed Beijing had deliberately blocked his entry into Thailand to prevent him from “spreading democratic ideas”.  Chow, 19, said Hong Kong campaigners would not be intimidated by China’s actions. “We will not give up the fight for democracy and the fight against the Chinese government which disrespects human rights,” she said.

Jason Ng, a Hong Kong author who helped arrange Wong’s trip, said Thailand’s refusal to admit the activist showed “how ready Beijing is to flex its diplomatic muscles and [how it] expects neighbouring governments to play ball”. Hong Kong’s young pro-democracy activists were now “at the mercy of some Chinese no-fly list,” Ng added. “Why is Beijing so afraid of Joshua Wong?”

The incident is the latest to underline how Thailand has drifted into China’s orbit since a 2014 coup returned the country to military rule. Since the junta took power it has allowed Chinese dissidents and scores of Uighur refugees to be forcibly returned to China at Beijing’s request.

Last October the Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai vanished from his home in the Thai town of Pattaya. Gui, who many believe was kidnapped by Chinese security agents, is being held in custody at an unknown location in mainland China. 

“This is unthinkable, despicable,” Claudia Mo, a veteran pro-democracy lawmaker, said of the recurrent deportations. “What has become of the [Thai] government? Has it become an anti-democracy airline for the Beijing government? “We need a full explanation and we demand an apology from the Thai government to Hong Kong people,” added Mo, a Civic party politician who was among those who had gathered to greet Wong at the airport on Wednesday afternoon. “If this becomes a precedent it means it could happen to you or me at any time if somehow Beijing thinks you are a dangerous, unwelcome person.”

Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, the Thai student activist organising Wong’s visit, criticised his country’s growing embrace of the Communist party. “Thailand should stay out of the Chinese sphere of power, but we’re not able to do this,” he said. A spokesperson for the US embassy in Bangkok said: “We support individuals exercising their universally recognised fundamental freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association throughout the world.”

In a brief statement China’s foreign ministry said it had “noticed the relevant reports” about Wong’s situation. “China respects Thailand’s exercise of immigration control according to the law,” it added.

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