Taiwanese deported from Kenya wanted for suspected fraud in China, says Beijing

Workers paste a sign reading "China illegally abducts Taiwanese people" during a press conference organised by lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party.
Workers paste a sign reading "China illegally abducts Taiwanese people" during a press conference organised by lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of Taiwanese deported from Kenya to China after being acquitted in a cyber crime case are wanted for suspected fraud in China, the Chinese government said on Wednesday (April 13), in a case that has enraged Taiwan, which has accused Beijing of kidnapping.

China's Ministry of Public Security, in a statement released via the official Xinhua news agency, said Kenya had decided to deport 32 Chinese and 45 Taiwanese to China, of whom 10 had already arrived and another 67 would land on Wednesday.

The Taiwanese had been heavily involved in telecoms fraud in China and had caused huge losses, with some victims killing themselves, the ministry said.

The group which had been detained in Kenya operated out of Nairobi and cheated people out of millions of yuan across nine provinces and cities in China, and as most the victims were in China, they would be prosecuted there, it added.

China had informed Taiwan of the situation and would invite Taiwan law enforcement officials to visit to discuss how best to tackle such fraud, the ministry said.

Mr An Fengshan, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Taiwan needed to view the case rationally.

"The victims abhor this kind of fraud. I hope the Taiwan side can give more thought to the victims when it looks at this issue," he told a news conference carried live on Chinese television.

Influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said Kenya was right to send the people to China and that Beijing was in the right. "The mainland's handling of the case is supported by international laws," it said in an editorial.

Taiwanese lawmakers grilled government officials during parliamentary committee sessions about the case.

"The Chinese judicial system is in question for many people in Taiwan," said Mr Lo Chih-cheng, a lawmaker for the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. "They are wondering if those people can get a fair trial in China."

Some comments on social media questioned whether a precedent was being set of Taiwanese abroad being "taken away" by China, drawing a parallel with the case of five booksellers in Chinese-controlled Hong Kong who temporarily went missing in mysterious circumstances.

The Hong Kong authorities are still waiting for detailed explanations from China regarding the booksellers, who produced and sold gossipy books critical of Chinese leaders, amid suspicion among some that they were abducted by Chinese agents. China has denied any wrongdoing.

The Kenyan government said the people were in Kenya illegally and were being sent back to where they had come from.

Kenya does not have official relations with Taiwan and considers the island part of "one China", in line with the position of Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

China views Taiwan as a wayward province and has not ruled out the use of force to ensure unification. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after the civil war with the Communists who have remained in control in Beijing since then.

Only 22 countries recognise Taiwan as the Republic of China, with most, including Kenya, having diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, with its leaders in Beijing.