23 October 2018
Joshua Wong holds his deportation document from the Thai authrorities after he was sent back to Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
Joshua Wong holds his deportation document from the Thai authrorities after he was sent back to Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Beijing hand hard to miss in Wong’s Bangkok airport drama

We are only now beginning to learn what happened when Joshua Wong was denied entry to Thailand on Wednesday and sent home.

Reuters reported that Wong, who was due to address a student forum in Bangkok, was stopped and detained by Thai airport police at the request of China.

“As a result, the Immigration Bureau blacklisted him and held him for deportation,” Pruthipong Prayoonsiri, a deputy commander of the airport immigration police, was quoted as saying by the Nation newspaper.

China had sent a request “to seek cooperation to deny” Wong entry, according to the report.

It was not the first time Wong had been barred from another country.

In 2015, he was denied entry by Malaysian authorities on his way to give a talk in a series of seminars, reportedly after the government was pressed on the matter by China. 

In both instances, he was stopped before the fact.

The question is what is China so worried about Wong giving a talk in another country?

What is there that these countries don’t know already about a world-renowned figure like Wong and what he has to say?

When Wong became the face of the 2014 democracy protests and featured prominently by the international media, he became an open book.

His ideas spread like wildfire including, presumably, in countries where censorship is not as relentless and unyielding as in the mainland.

It would make sense if Thailand — or Malaysia for that matter — had barred Wong to prevent him from inciting its own people and stoking violence rather than to appease China.

But we know now that it was not entirely the case.

As usual, Beijing’s response was pathetic, with the foreign ministry merely saying it “noted relevant reports” without comment.

One thing it will not admit is that it uses its enormous economic leverage to dictate its wishes on its neighbors, never mind that it’s opposed to the slightest interference by others in its own affairs.  

The Hong Kong government’s silence is equally appalling.

Not only is it keeping its distance from Wong, it is also trying to downplay the incident as if nothing happened.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said it’s a personal matter for Wong and dutifully cleared China of any involvement.

But Hong Kong people are smart and they are already seeing this as another proof “one country, two systems” does not work for them.

That in the end, they are second-class citizens and when push comes to shove, they’re on their own.  

Freedom of travel is enshrined in the Basic Law. Hong Kong residents need no authorization or clearance from China to leave Hong Kong.

Our passports, like all others, carry the same request to host countries to provide all necessary assistance and courtesies to its holder.

China not Thailand, infringed Wong’s constitutional right to travel. 

And that is the whole point of this sorry mess.  

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EJ Insight writer

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