China says Kenya deporting 45 Taiwanese to mainland

Kuomintang legislator Johnny Chiang showing reporters a video clip in Taipei, showing Taiwanese detained at a police station in Kenya, on April 12, 2016.
Kuomintang legislator Johnny Chiang showing reporters a video clip in Taipei, showing Taiwanese detained at a police station in Kenya, on April 12, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - Kenyan police will deport 45 Taiwanese to mainland China where they face investigation for fraud, Chinese state media said on Wednesday (April 13) after Taipei blasted Beijing for "abducting" its citizens.

Taipei said this week that Beijing had "illegally" pressured authorities in Nairobi to deport eight of its citizens to the mainland after they had been cleared of fraud charges in Kenya, in a case which has inflamed passions in Taiwan.

A total of 67 people from Taiwan and mainland China will be deported from Kenya on Wednesday after 10 were sent back at the weekend, the official Xinhua news agency cited police as saying. Altogether, 45 are Taiwanese.

"Mainland police will investigate the Taiwanese suspects in strict accordance with the law and keep Taiwanese authorities informed," Xinhua cited China's public security ministry as saying.

China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has ruled itself since 1949 following a civil war split.

Relations have often been tense, and the landslide election victory of independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen in January's presidential poll raised fears that Beijing will take a more assertive stance.

Political and trade ties between Taipei and Beijing grew in the last decade under the leadership of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT).

China's President Xi Jinping met with Tsai's KMT predecessor Ma Ying-jeou last year for the first summit between the two sides since their 1949 split.

But the meeting produced little of substance beyond the announcement of a telephone hotline between Beijing and Taipei. Xinhua said the hotline had been used to discuss the detainees.

"Judicial organs on the Chinese mainland have legal rights of jurisdiction over the repatriated suspects," Xinhua cited the public security ministry as saying.

Taiwan said Wednesday that it had filed suit against several top officials in Kenya for ignoring the court decision which cleared some of the suspects in the cyber scam case.

The officials "allowed Kenyan police to disrespect a court ruling, forcefully detaining our citizens for over 24 hours and illegally cooperating with mainland personnel to deport them to China", Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a written report to parliament.

Taiwanese authorities hoped to send a delegation of senior officials to China within two or three days to discuss the matter, said Andrew Hsia, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council.

China's nationalist Global Times tabloid defended the deportations in an editorial on Wednesday, while acknowledging they had met with "strong protests and criticism" in Taiwan.

"Taiwan is making a fuss about the mainland extraditing Taiwan suspects from abroad. Don't expect the mainland to yield to these disgraceful acts," said the paper, which has close ties to the ruling Communist party.

It added: "The mainland's handling of the case is supported by international laws... It is important that the Taiwan side does not politicise the matter." Xinhua reported that the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun had informed Taipei about "a group of Taiwanese residents who are criminal suspects thought to have carried out electronic fraud and who have been detained by our public security agency".

"Taiwanese suspected fraudsters are thought to have created a base overseas to defraud mainland people with increasing frequency... these criminals must be brought to justice," Xinhua cited Zhang as saying, in a report which the office posted on its own website.

China resumed ties with Taiwan's former ally Gambia last month, ending an unofficial diplomatic truce between the two sides. The African nation previously had relations with Taiwan.