KUALA LUMPUR/HONG KONG - Malaysia on Tuesday denied entry to a prominent teenage Hong Kong activist for a series of talks on democracy in China, raising concerns that Beijing may have put pressure on Kuala Lumpur.
Joshua Wong, 18, was one of the leaders of last year's pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that paralysed key roads in the city for 79 days and presented China's Communist Party leadership with one of its biggest political challenges in decades.
Wong and other protest leaders were accused by China's state media at the time of trying to foment a "colour revolution" to undermine Beijing's rule.
He had been invited to Malaysia to participate in academic talks ahead of the 26th anniversary of Beijing's Tiananmen Square demonstrations and bloody crackdown on June 4.
"I don't rule out that there is pressure from the Chinese government," Wong told reporters on arrival at Hong Kong airport.
Wong was detained soon after arriving at the airport on the island of Penang on Tuesday morning, then put on a plane back to Hong Kong soon after. He said a Malaysian immigration official had told him it was a "government order" to deny him entry.
Penang immigration authorities declined immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. The Malaysian Consulate in Hong Kong confirmed that Wong was listed as "not allowed to land" but declined to provide any additional information.
China's Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong couldn't be reached for any immediate comment. "We are still demanding that the government make clear why they stopped Joshua Wong from coming here," said Malaysian human rights activist Ng Yap-hwa, who helped organise Wong's visit.
"We're angry at the government's actions because there's no reason that the Malaysian government should stop us from organising any international talk on the democracy movement."
In December 2012, Malaysia returned six ethnic Uighurs from China's restive Western region of Xinjiang, who were seeking asylum from China, Human Rights Watch reported, criticising Malaysia for putting their lives at risk.
Malaysian authorities discovered and detained another 155 ethnic Uighurs last October. They were transported to Kuala Lumpur airport but it is unclear what happened to them. Uighurs are a Muslim minority from Xinjiang, an area beset by violence that Beijing blames on Islamist militants and separatists.
It is not only Chinese activists that Malaysian authorities have stopped. In 2013, Australian senator Nick Xenophon was refused entry on national security grounds after participating in an illegal street rally for electoral reforms a year earlier.