Joshua Wong, Hong Kong pro-democracy student leader and face of the Umbrella Movement, has been denied entry to Malaysia due to fears he would threaten ties with China, the country's police chief has said.
The South China Morning Post reports that the 18-year-old activist had planned to speak on democracy in China and to share with the Malaysian audience his experience during the Umbrella Movement, a widely-publicized student-led protest in Hong Kong last year calling for fully free leadership elections.
However, in statements posted to his social-media accounts on Tuesday, Wong revealed that he was banned from leaving Malaysia's Penang airport upon arrival because of a "government order," he cited an immigration official as saying, and was sent back to Hong Kong the same day.
"I asked what's the reason? Were there any documents? And the representative only said it was a government order," Wong told reporters. "I asked if there was any detailed information about the government order and they didn't want to respond. They tried to grab my arms and take me away."
He added: "I don't understand how there is any relation between the umbrella movement and Malaysia's national security."
Mustafa Ibrahim, director-general of the Immigration Department of Malaysia, said in a statement that Malaysia deported Mr. Wong according to standard procedures as he was on the list of people barred from entering the country.
"We were afraid that what he was going to speak about would harm our security," explained Malaysia's police inspector general Abu Bakar Khalid, the Wall Street Journal reports. "He was also going to speak about China. We know his anti-Chinese speeches. We do not want him to jeopardise our ties with China. We do not need him in Malaysia as Wong is an undesirable element," he said.
Eric Paulsen, co-founder of the Malaysian civil rights group Lawyers for Liberty, told the New York Times that the Malaysian government was trying to contain the influence Mr. Wong might have had on the country's young people, who "have been increasingly active in street protests since the beginning of the year."
"The authorities "fear ideas and independent thought, especially from the youth," Mr. Paulsen said. He contended that the move was "extremely foolish," however,"as the publicity would certainly now generate more interest in what he has to say."
As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, Wong, who founded a student movement called Scholarism in 2011, unabashedly identifies as a Christian on his social media accounts and says his faith is the driving forced behind his activism.
Born into a middle-class Christian family and educated at United Christian College (Kowloon East), a private Christian middle school, Wong's passion for positive change started at an early age, as his father began taking him to poorer areas of Hong Kong when he was a young child to impress upon him the need for social reform.
"He told me that I should care for the abandoned in the city. They had not heard of the gospel, and were living solitary and hard lives," he wrote in a blog, according to the South China Morning Post.
"Political reform is the core problem for every issue," says Wong. "Everyone knows that under the Chinese Communist party, there is a lack of possibility to fight [for] true universal suffrage in the end . . . but students should stand on the front line in every century."
Speaking on Tuesday, Wong revealed that he has called on the Hong Kong government to look into his case, saying this latest incident was an infringement of his right to travel freely.
He also told reporters that he will attempt to speak to the Penang audience on Tuesday night via video conferencing.
"This incident proves that not only the Chinese government has a blacklist on Hong Kong activists, but other half-democracies or authoritarian countries also do," he said.