Wall Street Journal: Thailand Acts as China’s Enforcer

The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 5, 2016 6:59 p.m. ET

■ Bangkok bars a Hong Kong democracy leader from the country.

Thai authorities blocked Hong Kong democracy leader Joshua WongWednesday from entering the country, where he was scheduled to speak at local universities. The 19-year-old was back in Hong Kong by day’s end, but the incident confirms Thailand’s willingness to act as China’s overseas enforcer—a role Beijing is increasingly pushing other governments to play.

Mr. Wong, who was recently convicted of unlawful assembly and sentenced to community service for his role in mass pro-democracy protests of 2014, was similarly barred from entering Malaysia last year. A local police inspector said Mr. Wong was turned away so as not to “jeopardize our ties with China.” The young activist has since made appearances without incident in the U.S., Britain, Japan and Taiwan.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, center,
shows the letter from Thailand Immigration office after
arriving at Hong Kong airport from Bangkok on Oct. 5.
Photo: Associated Press

As Mr. Wong noted back in Hong Kong, other Chinese dissidents in Thailand face worse fates than a half-day’s detention. Author Gui Minhai, a dual Swedish-Chinese national who ran a Hong Kong-based publishing house, vanished last year from his apartment in the Thai resort town of Pattaya. Three months later he gave a forced confession on state television from a Chinese prison. He remains incommunicado.

Thai authorities last year sent more than 100 Uighur refugees back to China’s restive Xinjiang province. They also repatriated human-rights activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei, even though the United Nations had arranged to resettle them in Canada. Chinese journalist Li Xin disappeared this year into Chinese custody after failing to get asylum in Thailand.

This fits a global pattern. Authorities in Burma last year repatriated 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan when he tried to escape China after the arrest of his parents, both human-rights lawyers. Police in Nepal frequently arrest and harass refugees from Tibet.

Beijing no doubt thinks it can continue to use pressure tactics to get its way against its critics. It isn’t a sure bet. “The Chinese government doesn’t want Hong Kong’s pro-democracy voices to be heard outside,” said Agnes Chow, an official in the Demosisto Party founded by Mr. Wong. “But the harder it tries to suppress us, the louder we’ll be heard.” Let’s hope she’s right.

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