The decision to deny Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong entry into Thailand underscores the government’s willingness to suppress the right to freedom of expression and raises serious concerns about how China is using its influence over Thai authorities, Amnesty International said today.
“The detention and deportation of Joshua Wong are yet another indicator that Thailand’s military government will use any available means to stifle political discourse in the country,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Senior Research Adviser for South East Asia and the Pacific.
Wong is a student activist and the Secretary General of Demosistō, a recently formed pro-democracy political party in Hong Kong. Wong rose to international prominence in 2014 as one of the leaders of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that came to be known as the Umbrella Movement. Wong and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement have become a source of inspiration for some student activists in Thailand.
Wong was detained upon his arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport late last night. He had travelled to Thailand to speak at a public event commemorating a 1976 violent crackdown on Thai student protesters by police, military, and paramilitary groups.
This afternoon, Wong was put on a plane and returned to Hong Kong. After arriving in Hong Kong, Wong stated that he had not been allowed to contact family members or a lawyer while detained in Bangkok.
Various unconfirmed reports have claimed that Thai authorities detained Wong and barred his entry into the country based on a request from the Chinese government. However, the Thai government has not yet provided an official justification for its actions. Thailand has previously forcibly returned Chinese national activists, asylum-seekers and others to China under apparent pressure from Chinese authorities, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
“The Thai government should not let geopolitics trump its human rights obligations, and Thailand’s borders should not be used as tools for suppressing conversations about democracy and other matters of national and global concern,” said Champa Patel.