Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been “blacklisted” from Thailand

Joshua Wong in July, 2015.
Joshua Wong in July, 2015.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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Updated at 5pm in Hong Kong

Student activist and poster boy of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy protest Joshua Wong was held at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport Wednesday (Oct. 5), and refused entry to the country before being returned to Hong Kong.

Wong was “blacklisted” at the request of China and deported, a Thai official told The Nation.

Wong was due to give a talk at an event hosted by Chulalongkorn University about youth participation in politics, the Umbrella Movement and Hong Kong’s new political party Demosisto, said the party’s deputy secretary general Agnes Chow. Demosisto released a statement Wednesday morning about the event:

Joshua Wong, Secretary General of Demosistō, left Hong Kong last night via Emirates (Flight EK385) en route to Bangkok, Thailand, where he has been invited to speak at an event hosted by Chulalongkorn University. The flight has arrived on schedule at around 11:45 p.m. local time. We have, however, been unable to contact him until 4:18 a.m. Hong Kong time, when Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, the Thai student-activist expected to meet Wong in Bangkok, notified us that Wong has been detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Wong said in a Facebook post later on Wednesday that he had been “illegally detained” for hours, without his passport or access to family or friends. He returned to Hong Kong Wednesday afternoon.

Human rights activists were alarmed that Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on free speech was extending outside of China’s borders. “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, the China Director of Human Rights Watch.

This is the second time in the last year that a politically sensitive figure from Hong Kong has run into trouble in Thailand.  One of Hong Kong’s five missing booksellers, Gui Minhai, who sold books containing salacious tales about Chinese Communist Party officials, went missing from his Pattaya home at the end of 2015.

Gui, a Swedish national born in China, later turned up on Chinese state television confessing to running from a two year suspended sentence for his part in the death of a college student in 2003. The confession believed by few in Hong Kong or China, led to speculation that the Chinese government had illegally rendered Gui from Thailand.

A prominent Thai artist recently likened the political atmosphere there to a “a hybrid of Singapore and North Korea,” thanks to an oppressive military junta that has been in power since a coup two years ago.

Aside from the bookseller disappearances, six candidates were disqualified for their pro-independence from China platform in September’s legislative council elections, and Hong Kong residents have become increasingly concerned that China is clamping down on dissent in the former British colony.

Hong Kong was guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly, and press thanks to a handover treaty with Britain that expires on 2047.