China says Taiwan fraud suspects deported from Malaysia 'confess'

Masked alleged fraud suspects are escorted by unseen policemen as they arrive at Taoyuan Airport in Taoyuan, on April 15, 2016.
Masked alleged fraud suspects are escorted by unseen policemen as they arrive at Taoyuan Airport in Taoyuan, on April 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - A group of Taiwanese fraud suspects deported from Malaysia to China have confessed and will be tried on the mainland, according to Chinese authorities, despite an angry Taipei demanding they face justice at home.

The expulsion of the 32 suspects from Malaysia in April came after another group of Taiwanese fraud suspects were sent to China from Kenya, a move described by Taiwan as "abduction".

The deportations are seen by observers as a means of exerting pressure on self-ruling Taiwan's new president Tsai Ing-wen, who takes office on Friday (May 20) and has a far more sceptical approach to relations with Beijing than her China-friendly predecessor did.

Taiwan has lodged formal complaints with China over the deportations and has insisted its nationals face investigation and trial on the island.

Beijing says it wants to try the suspects deported from Malaysia on the mainland because they were part of a telecom fraud ring that targeted Chinese victims.

China's Ministry of Public Security said they will undergo proceedings under the "mainland judiciary".

"The 32 Taiwanese suspects confessed to committing fraud and have been detained according to law," mainland police said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

They were part of the 117 people detained in Malaysia for more than 100 telecom fraud cases. The other 20 Taiwanese were earlier deported to Taiwan. 

The suspects are being held at two detention centres in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, Xinhua said.

The report quoted a 72-year-old cancer patient who was tricked into depositing two million yuan (S$420,162) into a "safety account" as part of the fraud scheme.

"This is my medical savings and it's all been cheated," said the woman surnamed Guo.

"I hope Taiwan will hand these crooks over to the mainland so they can be punished by law," she said.

Taiwan's Ministry of Justice, which has been leading negotiations with the mainland over its detained nationals, was not immediately available for comment.

Taiwan sent a delegation to meet mainland police and discuss the Malaysia case over the weekend.

The 20 Taiwanese suspects returned by Malaysia to the island were temporarily released by local police for lack of evidence on April 16. But five days later 18 of them were detained and two were banned from travelling. 

Chinese state media has also said previously that the Kenya suspects have admitted their guilt and will be tried on the mainland.

Taiwan is self-ruling after splitting with the mainland in 1949, following a civil war, but China still sees it as part of its territory waiting to be reunified.