Malaysia deports 32 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China

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

TAIPEI (AFP) - Malaysia deported 32 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China on Saturday (April 30), Taiwan authorities said, leaving the island's government furious once more in the latest bout of cross-strait diplomatic sparring.

It comes after Taipei accused Beijing of "abducting" its citizens from Kenya earlier this month.

The deportations are seen by observers as a shot across the bows of Beijing-sceptic Tsai Ing-wen, who will be inaugurated as Taiwan's president on May 20.

"The government has filed solemn protests and regrets the development," presidential office spokesman Charles Chen said of the deportations on Saturday.

Taiwan would send a delegation to the mainland "as soon as possible", Mr Chen said.

The 32 suspects arrived in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Saturday night, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

They were part of a group of 52 Taiwanese detained by Malaysian police last month during five raids linked to telecom fraud, which also led to the arrests of 65 mainland Chinese and two Malaysians.

Twenty of the Taiwanese were deported back to Taiwan two weeks ago, where they were initially allowed to go free.

After complaints in Chinese state media, which labelled Taiwan a "haven of frauds", 18 of them were later arrested. They are currently in custody in Taiwan.

Questions had swirled over the fate of the other 32 suspects, with Taiwan saying it was negotiating with Malaysia for their return.

Taiwan's justice ministry said on Saturday that it had raised concerns with China on Friday after hearing the deportations were to go ahead.

But the Chinese side informed Taiwan on Saturday that the suspects were being deported to the mainland, the justice ministry said.

CNA reported that China had invited Taiwanese officials to go to the mainland to jointly investigate the case.

Taipei blasted Beijing earlier in April for being "rude and violent" over the deportation of 45 of its citizens from Kenya to China, where they face investigation for fraud.

It has also filed a suit against several top officials in Kenya for ignoring a court decision which cleared some of the suspects and "illegally cooperating" with China to deport the Taiwanese.

Taipei has been increasingly isolated on the diplomatic stage with just 22 states recognising it, after Gambia last month resumed ties with Beijing.

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.