An explosive cross-strait diplomatic crisis has escalated with Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry accusing Kenyan police of breaking through a police station wall and throwing tear gas in order to force a second group of Taiwanese deportees on to a plane bound for the mainland.
This comes one day after Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry accused mainland Chinese officials of “illegally abducting” eight Taiwanese residents, who had been acquitted by Kenyan courts and were awaiting deportation back home.
This group was part of a larger group of Chinese-speaking individuals, who were recently acquitted by a Kenyan court of telecommunications fraud on April 5th after initially being arrested in November 2014. The group were then given 21 days to leave the country.
According to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, Chinese officials pressured Kenyan police to place eight of the acquitted Taiwanese residents on a China Southern Airlines flight to the mainland on Friday, with Taiwan’s representative from South Africa arriving too late, prevented from seeing the Taiwanese by Kenyan authorities.
Taiwan has called on Beijing to immediately release the eight Taiwanese residents, and the incident has caused outrage among government officials. “This has not only harmed the fundamental human rights (of the eight), but has hurt Taiwan people’s feelings and has severe negative impacts on ties between the two sides,” said Shih Hui-fen, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.
One day later, Taiwanese officials only find themselves more outraged. According to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, an additional 37 Taiwanese were forced on to another plane bound for mainland earlier today. More specifically, 22 Taiwanese who were arrested in the telecommunications fraud case were forced on first.
At the same time, another 15 Taiwanese who had been acquitted in the case were more reluctant to leave. Here’s how Antonio C.S. Chen, chief of Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry department of West Asian and African Affairs, described the situation as the deportees attempted to prevent Kenyan police from entering their jail cell, via Reuters:
The 15 locked up at the police station steadfastly refused to be deported (to China). So police broke through the wall, threw tear gas and then about 10 police entered with assault rifles.
Afterward, video footage was released by Taiwanese media that appears to show the group of young Taiwanese men, crammed inside a small room, braced against a closed door, preparing for a fight.
Watch the video below:
Chen also added that Chinese officials had been present at the scene.
Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry, defended the actions of the Kenyan police, saying that they had “an obligation to ensure if people are here illegally they are taken back to where they came from.” He added:
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.
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.
When questioned about the Taiwanese being deported to the mainland at a regular press conference yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We highly appreciate the Kenyan government’s long-term determination on the One China principle.”
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.
In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the National People’s Congress that China will never allow the tragedy of Taiwan being separated from the rest of the country to happen again.
“We will resolutely contain ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities in any form, safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and never allow the historical tragedy of the nation being split to happen again,” Xi said.
“This is the common wish and firm will of all Chinese people. It is also our solemn commitment and our responsibility to history and the people,” he added.