5 things to know about the spat over Kenya's deportation of Taiwanese to China

Johnny Chiang, a legislator from the Kuomintang (KMT) party, displays a video clip showing Taiwanese detented at a police station in Kenya.
Johnny Chiang, a legislator from the Kuomintang (KMT) party, displays a video clip showing Taiwanese detented at a police station in Kenya. PHOTO: AFP
 Police escort a group of people wanted for suspected fraud in China, after they were deported from Kenya, as they get off a plane after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport on April 13
Police escort a group of people wanted for suspected fraud in China, after they were deported from Kenya, as they get off a plane after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport on April 13-- PHOTO: REUTERS

In the latest cross-strait diplomatic spat, Taiwan has accused China of kidnapping 45 Taiwanese from Kenya.

The first batch of eight Taiwanese were deported from Kenya to China on April 8 and the second batch of 37 were sent to the mainland on April 12.

Beijing has defended the deportations, saying the Taiwanese are wanted for suspected scams targeting Chinese nationals .

Here are five things to know about the spat so far:

1. The Taiwanese were allegedly involved in telecom scams

 

China's Public Security Ministry has said the Kenyan police busted a syndicate and arrested 48 Chinese and 28 Taiwanese suspects in November 2014, who allegedly posed as Chinese judicial personnel and targeted victims in nine cities and provinces such as Beijing and Jiangsu.

Another 19 Chinese and 22 Taiwanese suspects accused of similar offences were arrested on April 8.

Beijing accuses Taipei of not cracking down effectively on such scams, resulting in recurrences and delay in recovery of lost monies. China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) says Chinese victims have lost at least 10 billion yuan (S$2.1 billion) yearly to Taiwanese suspects, with only 200,000 yuan recovered so far.

China says the Kenyan judicial authorities made the decision to send 32 Chinese and 45 Taiwanese suspects to the mainland.

2. China claims jurisdiction over the case

Beijing has defended the deportations, saying it has jurisdicion over the case as the victims are all Chinese residents. It insists that Kenya's actions were in accordance with the "One China" policy. Kenya has diplomatic relations with China, but not Taiwan.

TAO has rejected Taiwan's request to visit the Taiwanese detained in China.

3. Kenya allegedly used force when deportating the Taiwanese

 

Tear gas, assault rifles as well as hot and cold water were apparently used to force some of the Taiwanese to board the flight bound for China.

Among the second group of 37 Taiwanese deported on April 12, 15 were held at a Kenya police station. To resist deportation, they likely barred the door of the police station room, said Mr Antonio Chen Chun-shen, chief of the West Asian and African Affairs department at Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa). "So police broke through the wall, threw tear gas and then about 10 policemen entered with assault rifles," he told reporters in Taipei.

Video clips on Taiwan's news websites show five or six Taiwanese men in a small room, bracing themselves against a closed door. According to the mother of one of those held, who had received a phone call from her son, cold and hot water was used to douse the Taiwanese, the United Daily News reported.

Kenya's Interior Ministry, however, disputed the accounts, saying the police were entitled to use "reasonable force" to compel people without travel permits to leave.

4. Taiwan takes action on various levels

 

Taiwan is sending a delegation from the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to China for talks. It is also suing Kenya's Interior Minister, Police Inspector-General and Attorney-General for complicity in what it terms "illegal abduction" of 45 Taiwanese from the African country.

The island is arguing that the Kenyan authorities allowed the police to ignore a court injunction by forcefully detaining the Taiwanese for over 24 hours and illegally working with China's embassy to deport them.

Taiwanese of all political stripes have reacted to the deportations with anger. Incoming President Tsai Ing-wen has warned that the incident will deepen the negative image of China among the Taiwanese public, and called for Beijing to start negotiating with Taiwan immediately.

5. It is not the first time Taiwanese were deported to China

In 2011, the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese suspects to China who were part of an investigation into cross-border fraud. In that incident, China eventually repatriated the suspects to Taiwan under a cross-strait mutual legal assistance agreement signed two years earlier under President Ma Ying-jeou. Negotiations in that case took two months.

SOURCE: THE STRAITS TIMES ARCHIVES, BLOOMBERG