'Illegal abduction of Taiwanese': Taipei to sue Kenya, to send team to China

Suspects being escorted off a plane at Beijing airport yesterday after they were deported from Kenya.
Suspects being escorted off a plane at Beijing airport yesterday after they were deported from Kenya.PHOTO: REUTERS

Taiwan is taking action on various levels, sending a delegation to China for talks while suing the Kenyan authorities for complicity in what it terms "illegal abduction" of 45 Taiwanese from the African country.

The island's top official in charge of cross-strait ties Andrew Hsia told legislators yesterday that officials from his office, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), are preparing for the trip and will depart within the next two or three days.

Its counterpart in China, the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), had sent a fax over saying it welcomes a visit, he said. In its message, it says that under a cross-strait pact to jointly fight crime, it is open to "contacts and communication" on both sides.

The receptive response from China, together with a rare openness by the TAO yesterday to answering media questions in full, appears to be a change in tone from previous days' official stonewalling on the issue.

Since the saga erupted on Monday with news that Taiwanese nabbed in Kenya for phone fraud had been forced by Kenyan police and Chinese officials to fly to China, Taiwanese of all political stripes have reacted with anger.

Incoming President Tsai Ing-wen warned on Tuesday that the incident will deepen the negative image of China among the Taiwanese public, and called for Beijing to start negotiating with Taiwan immediately.

"The Beijing authorities do not have the right to deal with deportation of Taiwanese nationals on behalf of our own government," she said. If Taiwanese nationals commit a crime overseas, they should be sent home to face trial, she added.

"The Beijing authorities' ignorance of our own sovereignty and jurisdiction over the case has deeply hurt cross-strait relations."

China, however, had simply insisted that Kenya's actions were in accordance with a "one China" policy.

Yesterday's developments thus appear to be at least a stop-gap measure to manage the row.

Said Professor Chao Chien-min, a former deputy MAC minister: "I remain hopeful that this will be resolved peacefully."

He cited the joint crime-fighting treaty, which makes provisions for the extradition of criminals.

For now though, there are "flies" in the ointment: The TAO has rejected Taiwan's request to visit the Taiwanese now detained in China.

It is also unclear what concrete objectives the Taiwanese delegation will achieve, and how long it will take for the Taiwanese nationals to be returned home.

During a previous incident in 2011 when the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China, it took two months of cross-strait negotiations.

In tandem, Taiwan yesterday announced it is suing Kenya's Interior Minister, Police Inspector-General and Attorney-General.

Taiwan is arguing that they allowed Kenyan police to ignore a court injunction by forcefully detaining the Taiwanese for over 24 hours and illegally working with officials from China's embassy to deport them to China.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Taipei to sue Kenya and send team to China'. Print Edition | Subscribe