Thailand on Wednesday barred entry to a Hong Kong student activist who helped organize pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-ruled city in 2014, with a Thai newspaper saying he had been deported and “blacklisted” at China’s request, Reuters reports:
Bespectacled Joshua Wong, 19, was detained in Bangkok where he had been invited to speak at universities about Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” street protests and on setting up his political party, Demosisto.
This fits a global pattern …..The incident confirms Thailand’s willingness to act as China’s overseas enforcer—a role Beijing is increasingly pushing other governments to play, notes The Wall Street Journal:
As Mr. Wong noted back in Hong Kong, other Chinese dissidents in Thailand face worse fates than a half-day’s detention. Author Gui Minhai, a dual Swedish-Chinese national who ran a Hong Kong-based publishing house, vanished last year from his apartment in the Thai resort town of Pattaya. Three months later he gave a forced confession on state television from a Chinese prison. He remains incommunicado….
While the news of Wong’s expulsion prompted speculation that the Chinese government had asked Thai authorities to deny him entry, Paul Quaglia, a security expert for PQA Associates in Bangkok, tells TIME that Thailand may have had its own reasons to prevent him from coming in to “stir up talk about democracy” among Thai youth.
“This is clearly a confluence of interests at the least,” Quaglia tells TIME. “The Thai government has no interest in a foreign student democracy leader coming here to speak to Thai students on the October 6 anniversary of the notorious 1976 student ‘massacre.’”
Political analyst Willy Lam said Mr Wong’s case is “a very disturbing sign,” The Straits Times adds.
“For China to pull strings just to target a… college student who is not a criminal but who has a different vision for Hong Kong from Beijing is seen as a heavy-handed and disproportionate use of power,” Dr Lam told The Straits Times, adding that the incident will exacerbate the tension between Hong Kong and China.
The 2014 protests that Wong helped to lead were dubbed the Umbrella Movement — demonstrators used umbrellas to protect themselves from both the elements and from police pepper spray, adds NPR. Those protests also helped turn Nathan Law, 23, from a student leader into the youngest legislator in Hong Kong’s history, as NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports.