Cambodia deports 25 Taiwanese to China

PHNOM PENH • Cambodia has deported 25 Taiwanese nationals wanted on fraud charges to China, a police officer said, despite vehement opposition from Taipei, which wanted the suspects returned to Taiwan.

Taipei accuses Beijing of "abducting" its citizens from countries that do not recognise the island's government - such as close China ally Cambodia.

"The Chinese plane just took off from Phnom Penh airport with the suspects," Cambodian immigration officer Uk Heisela told Agence France-Presse.

The 25 Taiwanese suspects were joined by 14 Chinese nationals, all of whom were recently arrested for allegedly running a telephone fraud targeting victims on the mainland.

"Chinese police came with the plane. Each suspect was escorted by two Chinese police officers," said the officer, adding that a total of 90 Chinese officers arrived to oversee the hand-off.

Taiwan insists citizens deported from third countries should be returned to the island and not to mainland China.

Cambodia, one of Beijing's closest allies in South-east Asia, refuses to differentiate between China and Taiwan, simply referring to nationals from the latter as "island Chinese".

In April, Malaysia and Kenya sparked an uproar in Taipei when they returned Taiwanese nationals accused of crimes to mainland China. Observers saw the deportation cases as Beijing's effort to pressure the new Taiwanese government that took office in May. China does not trust the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Cambodia deports 25 Taiwanese to China'. Print Edition | Subscribe