China says Kenya deporting 45 Taiwanese to mainland

Johnny Chiang, a legislator from the Kuomintang (KMT) party, displays a video showing Taiwanese detented at a police station in Kenya, during a press conference in Taipei, in April 2016

Kenyan police will deport 45 Taiwanese to mainland China where they face investigation for fraud, Chinese state media said on Wednesday after Taipei blasted Beijing for "abducting" its citizens. Taipei said this week that Beijing had "illegally" pressured authorities in Nairobi to deport eight citizens to the mainland after they were cleared of fraud charges in Kenya, in a case that inflamed anger in Taiwan. A total of 67 people from Taiwan and mainland China were being deported from Kenya on Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency cited mainland police as saying, after 10 were sent back at the weekend. In total, 45 are Taiwanese. "Mainland police will investigate the Taiwanese suspects" Xinhua cited China's public security ministry as saying. China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has ruled itself since 1949 following a civil war split. Relations have often been tense, and the landslide election victory of independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen in January's presidential poll has raised fears that Beijing will take a more assertive stance. Political and trade ties between Taipei and Beijing grew in the last decade under the leadership of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT). China's President Xi Jinping met with Tsai's KMT predecessor Ma Ying-jeou last year for the first summit between the two sides since their 1949 split. But the meeting produced little of substance beyond the announcement of a telephone hotline between Beijing and Taipei. Xinhua said the hotline had been used to discuss the detainees. China warned against anyone promoting "Taiwan Independence" after Tsai's election and resumed ties with Taiwan's former ally Gambia last month, ending an unofficial diplomatic truce. "Judicial organs on the Chinese mainland have legal rights of jurisdiction over the repatriated suspects," the public security ministry said. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters: "They are acquitted, but they are not without guilt". - 'Disgraceful acts' - A spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said some of the deportees were accused of using internet phone accounts to defraud Chinese people of more than 600 million yuan ($93 million). "Many mainland people suffered. Many elderly people, teachers, students, migrant workers, laid-off workers and were deceived. Some retired people who toiled all their lives were had their life savings taken from them, and are now penniless," An Fengshan said, according to state media. Telephone scams are common in China, but past convictions have generally involved mainland citizens. Taiwan said Wednesday that it had filed suit against several top officials in Kenya for ignoring a court decision which cleared some of the suspects. The officials "allowed Kenyan police to disrespect a court ruling, forcefully detaining our citizens for over 24 hours and illegally cooperating with mainland personnel to deport them to China", Taiwan's foreign ministry said. Taiwanese authorities hoped to send senior officials to China within days to discuss the matter, said Andrew Hsia, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. Taipei's foreign ministry said following deportations at the weekend that "officials from the Chinese mainland abducted the eight Taiwan nationals". China's nationalist Global Times tabloid defended the deportations in an editorial Wednesday, while acknowledging they had met with "strong protests and criticism" in Taiwan. "Taiwan is making a fuss about the mainland extraditing Taiwan suspects from abroad. Don't expect the mainland to yield to these disgraceful acts," said the paper, which has close ties to the ruling Communist party. It added: "The mainland's handling of the case is supported by international laws... It is important that the Taiwan side does not politicise the matter."