Beijing not keen on Taiwan team's visit yet

China says it needs time to process the 45 deported from Kenya before talks

TAIPEI • In a twist to the saga of the forced deportation of 45 Taiwanese from Kenya to China, Beijing has said it would be inconvenient for Taiwan to send a delegation to the mainland.

This was revealed during a legislative committee meeting in Taipei on Wednesday. Several lawmakers had asked when the government was going to send officials to visit the detained Taiwanese.

Mr Andrew Hsia, the island's top official in charge of cross-strait ties, replied that China's Taiwan Affairs Office sent a fax earlier on Wednesday welcoming such a visit, and that a trip would happen within the next two or three days.

But People First Party legislator Chen Yi-chieh, after obtaining a copy of the fax, accused Mr Hsia of being naively optimistic and making a fool of lawmakers, reported the Taipei Times.

The fax, as read out by Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Chen Chi-mai, said: "We welcome your officials. We are willing to engage in cross-strait communications within the framework of the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement.

"As the suspects have just been brought back, we still need some time to undergo processes and verify certain issues. Hence, it would be inconvenient for you to send people here for discussions at the moment, but we will actively prepare for bilateral communications. We will keep you informed. The wait will not be too long."

China said the Taiwanese are wanted for suspected telecom scams targeting Chinese nationals, and praised Kenya for supporting its "one-China policy".

The case, according to Taiwanese media, has dealt a heavy blow to cross-strait relations, and would only further alienate Taiwanese.

On social media, parallels were drawn between this case and that of five missing Hong Kong booksellers who later resurfaced on the mainland. Some netizens voiced concern over whether a precedent was being set of Taiwanese abroad being "taken away" by China.

Since 2009, China and Taiwan have abided by the anti-crime agreement, which formalised criminal-justice cooperation and established a procedure to return the other's citizens in legal cases.

"Before this case, the Taiwanese were used to being consulted by China. The level of trust that made the agreement work seems to have broken down," Hofstra University international law professor Julian Ku told New York Times.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline Beijing not keen on Taiwan team's visit yet. Subscribe