Unjustified detention

Unjustified detention

The government's detention of Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong is an unnecessary show of authoritarianism.

The prudish interception, followed by deportation, will remind the world how the powers-that-be have not learned from the bloody Oct 6, 1976 massacre whose 40th anniversary today was supposed to be marked by Mr Wong's speech, among other commemorative activities.

Extreme suppression of people's freedom, as epitomised by the barring of the young activist from sharing his experience as a democracy campaigner with a local audience, will lead to higher resistance. The ensuing tension will inevitably develop into a confrontation which, if fanned by demagogues, hate speech and propaganda, could eventually culminate in violence.

The country witnessed how such a clash of political ideals could bring about a horrid result in the crackdown on pro-democracy students which left 77 dead and more than 800 injured in the Oct 6 tragedy. Similar tension culminated in yet another crackdown during the Black May massacre in 1992. Then there was the bloodshed at Ratchaprasong following the government's crackdown on red-shirt protesters in 2011.

Hundreds of lives have been lost, yet governments seem content to reinvent the politically destructive wheel. It is difficult to imagine how the presence of the 19-year-old student activist who led the 2014 protest against Chinese influence that has become known as the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong would pose a threat to the country.

Mr Wong, who founded the political party Demosisto after finishing the months-long protest, was invited to give a talk on his experience in campaigning for more political freedom and party politics at Chulalongkorn University today. His experience, and lessons learned, would have been apropos as political activists of the ''October generation'' which include those involved in the Oct 14, 1973 uprising and the Oct 6 crackdown have become retirees and seek to pass the torch and the spirit to fight for freedom and social justice to younger members of the society.

The government's arrest and immediate deportation of Mr Wong can thus be hardly justified. The National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the practice is normal for immigration police. He also offered further clarification and said a visitor may be denied entry if he has a criminal record, the purpose of the visit is unclear or there are grounds for police to believe he might be engaged in activities other than those declared.

Mr Wong does not fit any of the undesirable categories. Although he was taken to court for his role in the street protests two years ago, the magistrate only sentenced him to do community service. The purpose of his visit was also clear and there is no reason to believe he would be involved in any untoward activities while in Thailand.

It does not help either that the regime was less than straightforward with the public about its action. Col Winthai told the media yesterday he was not aware of any request from Beijing, which does not find campaigns by Mr Wong's party for more autonomy for Hong King that endearing, to bar the student activist from entering Thailand. On the same day, however, a deputy commander of the Suvarnabhumi Airport immigration office admitted Thai immigration police blacklisted Mr Wong and had him deported following a request from China.

The government's decision to please Beijing and curtail Mr Wong's rights to travel and freedom of expression will set a bad record for the country as far as human rights protection is concerned. The excessive repression does not auger well for the country as it marks one of the darkest, most brutal episodes in its political history today.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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