Kenya used tear gas to force Taiwanese onto plane to China: Taipei

A video screengrab showing the alleged stand-off between the Kenyan police and a number of Taiwanese men due to be deported to China.
A video screengrab showing the alleged stand-off between the Kenyan police and a number of Taiwanese men due to be deported to China.PHOTO: WWW.UDN.COM

Taiwan govt accuses China of getting the Kenyan authorities to deport another 37 Taiwanese to mainland

Tear gas, assault rifles, and hot and cold water were apparently used to force yet more Taiwanese, previously arrested for a phone scam in Kenya, to board a flight in the African country bound for China.

The diplomatic flap continued yesterday, with the Taiwanese government accusing its giant neigbour of getting the Kenyan authorities to deport another 37 Taiwanese to China.

This batch was on top of the eight Taiwanese sent to Guangzhou last Friday, in what Taiwan has condemned as "illegal abduction".

The eight are now apparently in Beijing. One has an American passport, according to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa) yesterday.

Among the group of 37 Taiwanese, 15 were held at a police station. To resist being put on the plane, they likely barred the door of the police station room, said Mr Antonio Chen Chun-shen, chief of the ministry's West Asian and African Affairs department.

"So police broke through the wall, threw tear gas and then about 10 policemen entered with assault rifles," he told a news briefing in Taipei.

Video clips on Taiwan's news sites show five or six Taiwanese men in a small room, bracing themselves against a closed door.

"They kept pointing at you with a gun?" asked a woman off-screen. "Yes," they replied.

According to the mother of one of those held, who had received a phone call from her son, cold and hot water was used alternately to douse the Taiwanese, the United Daily News reported.

When Taiwan's South Africa-based representative sought to see the men, he met with "all sorts of impediments", said Mr Chen. Three people from China's embassy in Kenya were also present.

Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka, disputing Tai- wan's account, said the police were entitled to use "reasonable force" to compel people without travel permits to leave, according to a Bloomberg report.

"If they are uncooperative, police have an obligation to ensure they comply with deportation," he said.

Some observers in Taiwan believe that the incident was orchestrated by Beijing - under the cover of the "one China" policy adopted by most countries - to pile pressure on incoming president Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Taiwan has no diplomatic ties with Kenya, which recognises the government in Beijing. "They came from China and we took them to China... Usually when you go to another country illegally, you are taken back to your last port of departure," Mr Njoka told Reuters.

Asked about the incident yesterday, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said: "China highly applauds Kenya for its steadfastness in adhering to the 'one China' policy."

Professor Chu Jintao, who researches Taiwan affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says it is premature to ascribe the incident to politics. "It could simply be that the men caught in Kenya were wanted for fraud on the mainland as well," he says.

Taiwan's Mofa said the Taiwanese have been acquitted of fraud.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Kenya used tear gas to force Taiwanese onto plane: Taipei'. Print Edition | Subscribe