PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia deported 25 Taiwanese nationals wanted on fraud charges to China on Friday (June 24), ignoring attempts by Taiwanese officials to have them returned to Taiwan.
A team of 90 Chinese police arrived in Phnom Penh to pick up the 25 Taiwanese nationals and another 14 Chinese nationals detained in Cambodia over suspected involvement in internet and telephone fraud.
The detainees, some in tears, were forced to squat on the tarmac as the police searched them, removed their belongings and handcuffed them. "Ninety Chinese police came here and picked them up themselves from the airport," Cambodian immigration officer Uk Heisela told Reuters.
Cambodia, one of China's closest allies, detained the Taiwanese and Chinese nationals in coordination with Chinese authorities who are attempting to halt the proliferation of scams that have cost billions of dollars.
Cambodia does not have official relations with self-ruled Taiwan and considers the island part of "one China", in line with Beijing which considers the island a breakaway province.
"Please, don't consider Cambodia as a hiding place or for doing illegal businesses," Mr Heisela said, confirming that the Taiwanese nationals were deported under the one-China policy.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said it was "deeply unsatisfied"with the way Cambodia handled the case.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China was appreciative of Cambodia's handling of the issue under the "one China" principle and that the suspects would have their rights guaranteed.
Cambodia has deported more than 200 people suspected of involvement in fraud rings to China since November.
Human Rights Watch said the group should have been allowed to appeal the decision to deport them in court.
"Sending a Swat-style team to bundle these Taiwan and China nationals away without any sort of hearing or appeal process clearly demonstrates that China thinks that international laws and standards somehow don't apply to them," said Mr Phil Robertson, the group's deputy director in Asia.
China is Cambodia's largest foreign investor and Cambodia is one of Beijing's staunchest regional allies.