The Taiwanese residents that were deported from Kenya to the mainland will be prosecuted in China for telecommunications fraud, the Chinese government announced yesterday.
This is despite the fact that they were already acquitted of the same charges by a Kenyan court earlier this month. China’s Ministry of Public Security explained that the 32 Chinese citizens and 45 Taiwanese were suspected of defrauding victims in the Chinese mainland and were wanted in China.
According to a Xinhua report, the deportees had called up victims in the Chinese mainland and presented themselves as law enforcement officers to extort money. In total, the Nairobi-based group had managed to cheat mainland Chinese victims out of millions of yuan in nine different provinces. Some of their victims even committed suicide after losing their life savings, the report added.
The suspected Taiwanese scammers were deported to the mainland in two groups, with the first eight leaving Nairobi on a China Southern Airlines flight last Friday, and another group of 37 being deported earlier this week.
Taiwanese officials were outraged, saying that the Taiwanese had been victim of an “uncivilized act of extrajudicial abduction,” by China, and accusing Kenya of breaking international law in order to strengthen ties with the mainland. On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said that some of the Taiwanese had tried barricading themselves in their Kenyan holding cell to avoid deportation to the mainland and that Kenyan police used tear gas and guns to get them on the plane.
However, on Wednesday, a Taiwan Justice Ministry official said that China had acted according to principles of legal jurisdiction in the matter, the Taipei Times reports.
“Chinese government officials said they are investigating the Taiwanese suspects for fraud involving phone scams. As these cases took place in China, they were asserting their legal jurisdiction in having the Taiwanese suspects forcibly taken to China,” said Tai Tung-li, deputy director of the ministry’s Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs.
She added that they had been in contact with Chinese officials and plan to send a group of Taiwanese officials to Beijing to discuss the case. They hope to deal with the matter in accordance with the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement, in place since 2009, this agreement established a procedure for transfer of suspects in legal cases across the strait. In its own statement, Beijing cited how the agreement had been used in the past to return Taiwanese suspected of fraud to Taiwan after being deported to the mainland.
The first group of deportees were paraded on state media yesterday, with pictures showing them arriving in Beijing with hoods and handcuffs, escorted by a sizable contingent of Chinese public security officers.
For its part, Kenya claims that it was simply abiding by its policy to deport foreigners to the country from which they flew into Kenya.
“These ones were people who were here illegally and they were deported back to the place where they had come from. They came from China and we took them to China… Usually when you go to another country illegally, you are taken back to your last port of departure,” Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry, said on Tuesday.
China became just the fourth country to open an embassy in Nairobi, on December 14, 1963, only two days after Kenya declared independence. Meanwhile, the African nation has no formal ties with Taiwan.
For the last two decades, China and Taiwan have been operating under the “1992 Consensus,” which says that there is only one China, but each side can have their own vastly different interpretation of what exactly that means.
Many believe that the timing of this incident is no coincidence. Incoming Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen will take office on May 20th, following her Democratic Progressive Party’s landmark victory over the more pro-China Kuomintang at the polls in January; however, Beijing has warned that continued cross-strait talks will only be possible if her new government agrees to the “1992 Consensus.” Tsai has so far been vague about the issue, and Beijing seems to be reminding her that time is quickly running out.
[Images via NetEase]