A student activist who became a symbol of the fight for democracy in Hong Kong, Joshua Wong, had reportedly been detained in Thailand following a request from China and has been flown back to Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong, who is the Secretary General of Demosistō, left Hong Kong on 4 October via Emirates (Flight EK385). His flight had arrived on schedule at around 11.45 pm local time.
His party wrote on its Facebook page that it had been unable to contact him until 4.18 am Hong Kong time, when Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, the Thai student-activist whom Joshua was expected to meet in Bangkok notified it that Wong was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
According to Chotipatpaisal, the Thai authorities had received a letter from the Chinese government earlier regarding Wong's visit. He also said that his request to see Joshua, who was in custody, had also been declined.
Subsequently, Thai independent newspaper, The Nation reported that Pol Col Pruthipong Prayoonsiri, deputy commander of the Suvarnabhumi immigration office, said China has sent a request to the Thai government to seek cooperation to deny him entry to the kingdom. It quoted Col Pruthipong saying, "As a result, the Immigration Bureau blacklisted him and held him for deportation. When officers informed him, Joshua Wong did not oppose it,"
"Demosistō strongly condemns the Thai government for unreasonably limiting Wong’s freedom and right to entry, and requests the immediate release of Wong," it wrote.
Demosistō said that it had requested the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s assistance in assuring Wong’s safety.
Demosistō stated that Hong Kong Immigration Department had informed them that Joshua had boarded Hong Kong Airlines HX772 from Bangkok, Thailand, en route back to Hong Kong. He was expected to arrive at 3.45 local time.
Nathan soon posted that Joshua had arrived home safely.
Joshua was initially planned to go to Bangkok, Thailand, where he was being invited to speak at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of a massacre of pro-democracy students by security forces and royalist militias in 1976 hosted by Chulalongkorn University, to talk about his experiences during the 79-day umbrella movement protests in Hong Kong in 2014.
The Umbrella Movement is a pro-democracy political movement that was created spontaneously during the Hong Kong protests of 2014. Since the start of the protests, movement activists have complained of harassment from political opponents "alarmingly similar to the way mainland Chinese activists and their families have long been targeted"
Nathan stated that, somehow, there is "some connection" between Beijing and Wong's detention.
He also wrote a post on his Facebook page which said that they had contacted the Immigration Department and the Security Bureau in Hong Kong, which had in turn notified them that the Bureau were currently following-up on the case. They had also contacted human rights organizations and lawyers in Thailand to inquire into Wong’s situation, as well as the Thai government’s arrangements.
"It is our hope that the Security Bureau can take an active approach in handling this case, and that Secretary for Justice Mr. Rimsky Yuen, SC, who has planned to visit Thailand today, will pay close attention to Wong’s detention, in defense of Hong Kong citizens’ basic human rights abroad," he said.
In a brief statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it was aware of reports of Wong’s detention. However, he did not say whether China had asked Thailand to detain him. He said only that it respected Thailand’s ability to manage the entrance of people into the country “in accordance with law.”
A spokesman for Thailand’s foreign ministry stated that his government did "not prohibit the expression of personal opinions on the political situation in Thailand" and said that the ministry was looking into why Wong had not been allowed into Thailand. The spokesperson also added that the decision involved “various factors”.
The deputy secretary general of Demosistō, 19-year-old Agnes Chow, stated, "We believe that the Chinese government is using all ways to stop us spreading democratic ideas from Hong Kong to other countries. But bigger suppression makes a stronger fight."
She said, "We just hope that Joshua is safe. We will not give up the fight for democracy and the fight against the Chinese government which disrespects human rights."
A Hong Kong-based writer who knows Wong, Jason Ng, said that before leaving Hong Kong the student Joshua had voiced concerns that he might not be allowed to enter Thailand.
Jason, who wrote a book on Hong Kong’s umbrella movement protests, said, "He was most concerned about his personal safety, being abducted or attacked. Being turned back is one thing, getting hurt or disappearing is another."
Ahead of Wong’s trip to Thailand supporters set up an encrypted group on the messaging service WhatsApp through which Joshua could notify Bangkok-based academics and journalists of any problems to guard against such threats.
China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, stated, "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."