Joshua Wong, a leader of the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests of 2014, co-founder of the student activist group Scholarsim, and current secretary general of the newly-formed, pro-democratic party Demosistō, was detained on October 4th by Thai authorities at Bangkok’s international airport.
According to an article in the The New York Times, Wong, who had been invited by a Thai student activist to speak about the 2014 protests at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, “said that more than 20 police and immigration officers met him on arrival in Bangkok”. Wong’s “passport was confiscated and that he was detained with little explanation from the Thai authorities, who he said ‘mentioned a blacklist'”. The Thai student activist claimed that the Chinese government had issued a letter demanding Wong’s detainment at the airport. Chinese authorities did not respond to CNN’s inquiries regarding the existence of such a letter.
Wong’s detention echoes the disappearance of Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born, Hong Kong-based Swedish bookseller who published controversial texts on Chinese government officials. Gui, who is speculated to have been abducted and detained by Chinese authorities while in his apartment in Pattaya, Thailand. Three months after Gui’s disappearance, a confession video in which Gui admitted to alleged involvement in a drunk-driving incident 12 years prior was released through China Central Television (CCTV), one of the official mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party. International news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post,
Journalists, non-profit organizations, and foreign governments alike expressed skepticism towards Gui’s “confession”. As published in an article by Time Magazine, Jack Kirby, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, openly questioned “China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework, as well as its respect for the protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Joint chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Christopher Smith expressed similar sentiments.
Though Wong has returned safely to Hong Kong, concerns over political freedom and freedom of expression persist. While the notion that Wong was detained by the Chinese government is, at the end of the day, no more than speculation and allegation (for there exist no official reports or statements that can affirm the government’s involvement), we must nonetheless remain acutely aware of and grow increasingly vigilant about instances of legal and human rights infringement.
Image credit: The New York Times