BEIJING (Reuters) - It was the Thai government that made a decision to block the entry to Thailand of a Hong Kong student activist last week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday.
Bespectacled Joshua Wong, 19, who helped organize pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014, was detained in Bangkok where he had been invited to speak at universities about Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” protests and on setting up his political party.
The case raised fresh questions about mainland interference in Hong Kong, which though part of China is meant to enjoy considerable autonomy under a “one country, two systems” formula, and about Chinese influence on Thailand’s military government.
Asked about the case, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said China was consistent when it came to respecting other countries’ sovereignty, no matter how big or small the country is.
“As for Joshua Wong, him not being allowed into Thailand, this was the Thai government’s decision made in accordance with its relevant immigration rules and laws,” Li added, without elaborating.
Thailand’s Nation newspaper last week quoted a deputy commander of airport immigration police, Colonel Pruthipong Prayoonsiri, as saying China had sent a request “to seek cooperation to deny” Wong entry.
But Pruthipong later told Reuters he had not spoken to the newspaper, did not know if Wong had been blacklisted and declined further comment
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said Wong’s expulsion was a matter for China, not Thailand.
Thailand has been ruled by a junta since a 2014 coup which was widely condemned by the West. Since then, the generals running Thailand have forged closer ties with China.
Chinese Vice Premier Li Yuanchao met Prayuth in Bangkok on Sunday, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Li expressed his hope the two countries would increase mutual support on key issues and “make contributions on maintaining the peace, security and stability of the two nations and the region”, the ministry added.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel