Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), a Hong Kong democracy campaigner and a 2014 “Umbrella movement” leader, was on Tuesday finally allowed to return home after being detained for 12 hours at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where more than 20 police and immigration officials were waiting for him. They confiscated his passport and put him in a cell. Wong said the police refused to give him an explanation, saying only that he had been blacklisted, and that: “We can treat you nicely, or we can make things difficult for you.”
The Nation, an English-language newspaper published in Thailand, reported that Suvarnabhumi immigration office deputy commander Pruthipong Prayoonsiri said that the request to deny Wong entry to Thailand had come from China.
Beijing seems to be making a habit of extending its domestic affairs beyond its borders, despite its complaints about other governments interfering with its “internal” affairs.
Beijing’s intimidation tactics are nothing new to Taiwan. Last month, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Karen Yu (余宛如) was denied an entry visa to Hong Kong for the Social Enterprise World Forum, an event she was invited to attend in a private capacity. And in June 2014, Sunflower movement leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) was denied entry to Hong Kong after airport officials told him his China-issued Taiwan compatriot’s travel document had been revoked. He had been intending to participate in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
That Beijing would exert such control over Hong Kong authorities comes as little surprise. Of more concern is how China is increasingly extending these demands further afield.
Beijing earlier this year orchestrated the deportation of five Taiwanese accused of telecommunications fraud from Kenya to China, despite their acquittal by a Kenyan court.
This is all part of a nefarious trend, from limiting the movements of certain persona non grata to applying economic pressure, such as withholding Chinese tourists from Taiwan, to political intimidation, such as cutting off lines of communication between Beijing and Taipei until President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) acknowledges the so-called “1992 consensus.”
However, what is interesting is Beijing’s willingness to call in favors to obstruct pro-democracy activists abroad.
The forced deportation of Taiwanese from Kenya coheres with Beijing’s insistence on the “one China” principle. The denial of Yu’s visa could be understood in the context of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) distaste for the DPP. Even the revocation of Chen’s travel permit makes sense in terms of China’s desire to stymie communications between dissident movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but instructing Thailand to deny access to a pro-democracy activist is of another order entirely.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seems fearful of the spread of democratic ideals within his real or perceived sphere of influence, and of the threat this poses to the continued survival of the CCP as the absolute power in China and to Beijing’s chances of an eventual annexation of Taiwan. However, this glimpse of fear is a suggestion of weakness.
This is why it is important for Taiwanese to remain resolute. This is why it is important for democracy movements on either side of the Strait to stand together. It is also why it is important for Tsai to remain firm in declining to acknowledge the “1992 consensus,” and why it was particularly unhelpful that a delegation of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and independent heads of local governments went to Beijing last month to discuss “tourism and trade-related issues” predicated on the “1992 consensus.”
Hold firm, Taiwan. Resist Beijing’s attempts to divide and conquer. Your allies work with you toward a common cause, not out of fear of the neighborhood bully.
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