Police Say They Blocked Tiananmen Rally Because of Coronavirus

Activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal holds up a photo of the "Tank Man" during his protest in front of the Chinese Embassy on June 4, 2018, to mark the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on Chinese protesters.

BANGKOK — A police spokesman on Tuesday said officers banned an activist’s plan to stage a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy this week due to fears of coronavirus infection.

Col. Kissana Phathanacharoen also denied specuations that the Chinese Embassy asked the Thai police to block the protest. The activist, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, said police did not intervene when he staged similar protests in the past to mark the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on Chinese protesters.

“It’s not about being pressured by any embassy,” police spokesman Kissana said.

Read: No Umbrellas, Criticism of China Allowed At Oct. 6 Memorial

Col. Kissana also said large gatherings at the risk of spreading the coronavirus are not allowed under the Emergency Decree.

Netiwit said he already notified the Huay Kwang Police Station, whose jurisdiction covers the Chinese Embassy, of his plan to stage the rally. In a reply sent to Netiwit and seen by Khaosod English, police cited the Emergency Decree to ban the protest.

“The recipient of your letter detailing the rally considers it to be a gathering that violates … national security under the Emergency Decree,” said the letter, signed by the chief of Huay Kwang Police Station.

“We didn’t plan to assembly many people. And we are not inviting others to join,” Netiwit said on the phone. Some media agencies quoted the activist as saying that the Chinese Embassy had a discussion with the Thai police before the latter issued the ban on his protest.

Netiwit was responsible for vigils and protests marking the 1989 crackdown in previous years.

Hundreds were reportedly killed after Chinese security forces launched an attack on June 4 to disperse protesters camping out at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demand more rights and freedom. Chinese authorities describe the protest as attempts by reactionary forces to overthrow the Communist Party’s rule.

In today’s phone interview, Netiwit said the activists were not only targeting Chinese records of human rights abuse. He said the campaigners are also planning to stage rallies condemning racism in the United States and the recent police killing of a black civilian there.

But the police spokesman said they shouldn’t even think about protesting at the U.S. Embassy either.

“I would like to ask why try to do it if it’s a foreign affair? What has Thailand got to do with it?” Kissana said. “What if they are infected with COVID-19?”

Related stories:

Cops Use Virus Emergency Law to Break Up Anti-Coup Rally, Arrest 2