Kenya’s deportation to China of Taiwanese nationals and their detention by the Chinese government has left Taiwan fuming.
Beijing: Kenya on April 12 defended its deportation of two groups of Taiwanese to China after they were acquitted in a cyber crime case, a move that has drawn an angry reaction from Taipei.
The Kenyan government said those deported were in Kenya illegally and were being sent back to where they had come from.
Kenya does not have official relations with Taiwan and considers the island a part of China, in line with Beijing’s position.
“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,” Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said.
He could not say to which city in China they were being returned, but Kenya Airways and China Southern both fly to Guangzhou.
The Taiwanese government was also incensed that Kenyan authorities used force, including tear gas, to get the deportees out of a police station and into a plane on Tuesday. It has accused China of kidnapping eight of its nationals.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said Taipei had not contacted Nairobi about the matter. The protests came via a media briefing in Taiwan.
“We don’t have official relations with Taiwan. We believe in the “One China” policy. We have diplomatic relations with China. We haven’t seen the official protest, we are actually hearing it from the media,” Mohamed told Reuters.
A group of eight Taiwanese left on April 7 and a second group of 37 were in the process of leaving on April 12, Taiwan‘s Foreign Ministry said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing approved of Kenya‘s upholding the “one China” principle. He declined to elaborate.
In China’s first public explanation of what has happened, the director of its Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, spoke with his Taiwan counterpart, Andrew Hsia, the head of Taiwan‘s Mainland Affairs Council, about the case.
State news agency Xinhua said Zhang explained that the Kenya deportees included fraudsters from Taiwan who had caused losses for people in China and that they “must be bought to justice”. He gave no details.
Taiwan‘s Hsia lodged a protest at China’s behaviour, the Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement about the call.
China views Taiwan as a wayward province. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after a civil war with the Communists, who have remained in control in Beijing since then.
Only 22 countries recognise Taiwan as the Republic of China, with most, including Kenya, having diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Kenya‘s attorney-general said in January it was considering a request from Beijing to extradite 76 Chinese charged with cyber crime. But Taiwan said some of these people were from Taiwan.
Suspected of fraud
The Chinese government said today that the group of Taiwanese deported from Kenya are wanted for suspected fraud in China.
The Taiwanese had been heavily involved in telecoms fraud in China and had caused huge losses, with some victims killing themselves, the China’s Ministry of Public Security said.
They were suspected of cheating people out of millions of yuan across nine provinces and cities in China, and as most the victims were in China, they would be prosecuted there, it added.
China had informed Taiwan of the situation and would invite Taiwan law enforcement officials to visit to discuss how best to tackle such fraud, the ministry said.
An Fengshan, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Taiwan needed to view the case rationally.
“The victims abhor this kind of fraud. I hope the Taiwan side can give more thought to the victims when it looks at this issue,” he told a news conference carried live on Chinese television.
Taiwanese lawmakers grilled government officials during parliamentary committee sessions about the case.
“The Chinese judicial system is in question for many people in Taiwan,” said Lo Chih-cheng, a lawmaker for the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. “They are wondering if those people can get a fair trial in China.”
Some comments on social media questioned whether a precedent was being set of Taiwaneseabroad being “taken away” by China, drawing a parallel with the case of five booksellers in Chinese-controlled Hong Kong who temporarily went missing in mysterious circumstances.
Hong Kong authorities are still waiting for detailed explanations from China regarding the booksellers, who produced and sold gossipy books critical of Chinese leaders, amid suspicion among some that they were abducted by Chinese agents. China has denied any wrongdoing.
China’s influential state-run tabloid the Global Times said Kenya was right to send the people to China and that Beijing was in the right.
“The mainland’s handling of the case is supported by international laws,” it said in an editorial.