Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong 'held in Thailand'


Bangkok (AFP)

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong has been detained on arrival in junta-run Thailand, his party and activists said Wednesday, where he was due at events marking the anniversary of a military crackdown.

The bespectacled Wong, 19, famed for his galvanising role in the city's 2014 pro-democracy "umbrella movement", was held as he landed at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport late Tuesday, his party Demosisto said in a statement, citing a Thai student activist, Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, who was due to meet him.

Demosisto "strongly condemns the Thai government for unreasonably limiting Wong's freedom and right to entry, and requests the immediate release of Wong," the statement said.

According to his Facebook page, Netiwit went to the airport late Tuesday to meet Wong but after waiting several hours airline staff told him the Hong Konger had been detained.

"We then asked tourist police, who told us he was detained at immigration and that we cannot contact Joshua."

Police "told us that there was a written letter from the Chinese government to the Thai government concerning this person."

The head of Thai immigration police said he was not yet aware of the incident, when contacted by AFP.

The apparent detention comes almost a year after a Hong Kong bookseller disappeared while on holiday in Thailand.

He later resurfaced in China, one of a number of men detained by Chinese authorities over their involvement in the selling of titles critical of Beijing's leaders.

Wong was among three student leaders convicted in August over the 2014 storming of the forecourt of government headquarters, an event that preceded mass protests that brought much of the city to a standstill for more than two months.

In 2016, he co-founded Demosisto, a party calling for a referendum on Hong Kong's future, including the option of independence -- angering China, which holds a tight grip over the semi-autonomous city.

Wong's Demosisto colleague, 23-year-old Nathan Law, last month became Hong Kong's youngest lawmaker after being elected to the city's Legislative Council.

Wong was due to speak at a Thursday event in Bangkok marking the 40th anniversary of a massacre of pro-democracy students by security forces and royalist militias.

The Thammasat massacre of October 6, 1976, remains a deeply sensitive issue in Thailand's blood-flecked recent history.

Thailand has been run by the army since a 2014 coup.

Its military leaders have cosied up to regional superpower Beijing, which has offered diplomatic support and huge foreign investment to Bangkok.

Urging Wong's immediate release Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch said his arrest "sadly suggests that Bangkok is willing to do Beijing's bidding."

In July 2015 Thailand deported more than 100 Uighurs who had fled China.

Rights groups say the Muslim minority are heavily repressed in China and for years used the Southeast Asian kingdom as an escape route onwards to Turkey and elsewhere.

The following month a bomb at a popular shrine killed 20 people in central Bangkok -- mostly Chinese-origin tourists.

Two men on trial for that attack are Uighurs, although the Thai government says there is no link between the deportation and the bomb.