Taiwan regrets Spanish decision to deport 200 Taiwanese to China in fraud case

TAIPEI/MADRID (REUTERS) - Taiwan said on Saturday (Feb 18) it "deeply regrets" a decision by the Spanish government to deport to China around 200 Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecom fraud.

The Spanish government said on Friday it had approved the extradition of 269 "Chinese citizens" as part of a year-long investigation into an Internet fraud ring operated from several Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said around 200 of the suspects were Taiwanese.

Taiwan "deeply regrets" the decision by the Spanish government "which has infringed upon the rights and interests of our people and ignored the tradition of the EU countries' emphasis on human rights," the ministry said in a statement.

The Spanish case is the latest involving Taiwanese abroad suspected of telecom fraud against China being rounded up with Chinese nationals and sent back to China.

Last year, Taiwanese suspected of telecom fraud were deported, sometimes forcibly, according to the Taiwanese government, from countries including Kenya, Cambodia and Armenia, to China.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said the suspects had not yet been deported from Spain and that its representatives in Spain would continue to work with Taiwan's judicial authorities and police on the rights of the Taiwanese suspects.

No Spanish government officials could be immediately contacted on Saturday to comment on the nationality of the suspects.

China says Taiwan is part of its territory and has no right to diplomatic relations.

Major countries in the world, including all of Europe, outside of the Vatican, follow a 'one China' policy, recognising Beijing as the sole legal government of China.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists forces fled to the island in 1949 after being defeated in a Chinese civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists.

Thirteen of the illicit call centres in Spain were dismantled in December in a joint operation by Spanish and Chinese police, Spain's Justice Ministry said on Friday.

Around 839 people were victims and the sum involved in the scam was estimated at around 120 million yuan (S$24.8 million), the Spanish justice ministry said in a statement.