BANGKOK: The Chinese embassy in Bangkok condemned "certain Thai politicians" on Thursday (Oct 10) for getting in touch with Hong Kong’s pro-independence group, implying such behaviour could hurt the friendship between the two countries.
“The group that wants to separate Hong Kong from China has conspired with foreign groups, to spread rumours and distort facts in order to achieve their undisclosed motive,” the embassy’s spokesperson said in a statement published on its website.
“Certain Thai politicians have been in touch with the group calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China, acting in favour of it.
"The action is extremely wrong and irresponsible. China hopes the relevant individuals can recognise the facts about the Hong Kong issue, be cautious, and do what is beneficial for the friendship between China and Thailand.”
The stern warning came after Hong Kong student activist and politician from pro-democracy party Demosisto, Joshua Wong, shared on social media a photograph of himself and the leader of Thailand’s progressive Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
The pair met on Oct 5 at the Open Future Festival in Hong Kong, an annual forum organised by the Economist. Both Wong and Thanathorn were speakers at the event.
“Under the hard-line authoritarian suppression, we stand in solidarity,” Wong wrote last week in a tweet showing him smiling next to Thanathorn.
On Oct 5, the Thai politician said what happened in Hong Kong over the past few years has inspired his newly formed party.
“Let me take you back to 2018, when we were trying to make this decision whether to form a party," Thanathorn told the audience at the Open Future Festival.
"There were two options back then: whether it should be a movement or a political party."
He added: “We ended up as a political party because the wounds of the 2010 crackdown were still very fresh.
"The fear is still inside the hearts and the minds of the people. So we said, ‘Okay. If we cannot do it as a movement, then the only alternative left is the political party'. So I think, in a way, Hong Kong inspires us."
NO PLAN TO GET INVOLVED
On Friday, the Future Forward Party leader released a statement in response to what he described as "attempts to link" him to the unrest and protesters in Hong Kong.
"After the even, Joshua Wong and I met at the venue and had a chat for a bout five minutes before having a photo together. We then separated. That was the first and only time I met Joshua Wong. I've never taken part in any political group in Hong Kong and don't intend to do so in the future," Thanathorn said in a Facebook post.
The mission that the Future Forward Party and I have undertaken is to create democracy and progress in Thai society.
It is a normal practice for speakers at any seminar to have a chat and take photos together, the 40-year-old politician added, citing his conversation and photos with Shaun L Rein from China Market Research Group. He is the author of The War of China's Wallet and has criticised the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
In his statement, Thanathorn also mentioned his controversial speech at the Open Future Festival, where he talked about Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong made us think of a model for social movement but in the end, we decided to form a political party and fight for change through a parliamentary system because the loss from the 2010 crackdown is still a deep wound in Thai society," he said.
I always support people's exercise of freedom in expressing opinions peacefully and I would like to see the situation in Hong Kong improve. I don't wish to see any use of violence towards civilians or civil servants.
"Restoring the credibility and trust between the authorities and civilians should be the best solution, without unreasonable actions or measures," Thanathorn added.
The Future Forward Party was formed in March 2018 by Thai billionaire Thanathorn and prominent legal scholar Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.
In the general election on Mar 24, it won 6.3 million votes, which translated into 81 seats in the 500-seat parliament. The party is largely supported by young voters in urban areas.
Shortly after the polls, its leader and elected member of parliament Thanathorn was suspended by the constitutional court from serving his MP duties after the court accepted a case alleging he violated media shareholding rules.
The suspension took place on May 23, one day before the opening of parliament.