Hong Kong protest leader's deportation from Bangkok is China's business, don't get involved: Thai PM

Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong (centre) holds up his expulsion order from Thai authorities during a press conference upon his arrival at the international airport in Hong Kong on Oct 5, 2016.
Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong (centre) holds up his expulsion order from Thai authorities during a press conference upon his arrival at the international airport in Hong Kong on Oct 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said a Hong Kong democracy advocate was barred from entering the country and sent home at the Chinese government's request.

Mr Joshua Wong, a student leader during 2014 protests calling for greater democracy in Hong Kong, was detained late on Tuesday (Oct 4) upon his arrival at Bangkok's main airport. He had been invited to speak at a university event marking the 40th anniversary of a deadly massacre of student protesters in the Thai capital.

"He already went back to China," General Prayut told reporters on Wednesday (Oct 5). "Officials there have requested to take him back. It's Chinese officials' business. Don't get involved too much. They are all Chinese people, no matter Hong Kong or mainland China."

Thailand has been under military rule since Gen Prayut led a coup that toppled the elected government in May 2014, and broad restrictions on political expression and activities remain in place.

 

Gen Prayut's government has previously drawn international criticism for bowing to pressure from Beijing, including the deportation of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China, as well as two dissidents who were nearing asylum resettlement in third countries.

Amnesty International said Mr Wong's return to Hong Kong "raises serious concerns about how China is using its influence over Thai authorities".

"Thailand's borders should not be used as tools for suppressing conversations about democracy and other matters of national and global concern," Dr Champa Patel, the group's senior research adviser for South-east Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.

Mr Wong told reporters on Wednesday that he viewed Thailand's action as illegal confinement and was grateful to be back in Hong Kong. He said he had been surrounded by about 20 Thai security personnel at the Bangkok airport and overheard that he was on some sort of blacklist.

No one answered a call to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs after normal business hours. The ministry also didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Thai government spokesman, Major General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said in remarks released by the prime minister's office that the junta, known formally as the National Council for Peace and Order, had a responsibility to maintain peace and keep political conflict from escalating.

"The NCPO was aware that Mr Wong had been active in resistance movements against other foreign governments, and that if such actions were taken within Thailand, they could eventually affect Thailand's relations with other nations," Maj Gen Sansern said, according to the statement.