Kenya has been caught in a diplomatic row between China and Taiwan for deporting some Taiwanese in China instead of Taiwan.
China and Taiwanese have had diplomatic rows for a long time, but the latest scuffle where Kenya deported some Taiwanese to China has extended the rift between the two states.
Taiwan accuses Kenya of "gross violation" of human rights for forcefully deporting some of its citizens to mainland China for no clear reason. On the other hand, China praised Kenya for supporting the ‘One China’ policy.
In the past, China and Taiwan have had their own set differences with China viewing Taiwan as one of its renegade provinces. All through, their relationship has been mainly that of respect.
But the latest development has brought forth their complicated relationship to international scrutiny.
A group of Taiwanese and Chinese were accused of operating illegal communication and command centers and engaging in or intending to commit cybercrime in Nairobi.
After being in jail for over a year, April 5, Kenyan authorities acquitted 23 Taiwan nationals who had been arrested.
For the Chinese Community in Kenya, this should have been a moment to make merry for the victory. But not so first. Later when the group went to pick their passports from a Nairobi police station “they were detained by police for no reason,” Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said.
According to MOFA, this was a well-planned an “uncivilized act of extrajudicial abduction”, which it said was done by mainland China government. In an official statement, they demanded the release of the 23, only for them to be deported by Kenya, not to Taiwan but China.
Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka differed with the Taiwan claim. He told CNN that the Taiwanese were deported as they were in Kenya "illegally".
"If they were here legally we wouldn't have deported them," he said.
Njoka also refuted claims that the Taiwanese were forced out their cells by use of tear gas.
"It's not true. Why would police tear gas their own station?" he wondered.
Njoka noted that the Kenyan authorities followed proper protocol, adding that they followed international law by releasing them back to the court in which they came from.
Kenya does not have a relationship with Taiwan as a country but has a relationship with China, he said.
China is seeking to try the Taiwanese prisoners, despite being acquitted in Kenya
In a statement, China’s Ministry of Public Security said the “criminal syndicate” had carried out scams that cost Chinese people millions of yuan leading to the collapse of businesses and people to commit suicide. For that reason, and the fact that their victims are in China, they will be prosecuted in China.
The Chinese authorities said that in the past, some Taiwanese telecom scammers have not been adequately punished.
"Quite a few Taiwan suspects were released as soon as they were returned to Taiwan, and some resumed their wrongdoing soon after," China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan said, according to Xinhua.
An said that following the ‘one China’ policy, China has the right to charge the accused fraudsters.
But this was not well received by the Taiwan government.
John Chen, a Taiwanese representative who is handling the case in Kenya, termed China’s plan as absurd.
"For those who have been acquitted by the Kenyan court, they shouldn't be trialed again, because that would be kind of like double jeopardy," he said.
According to China, Taiwanese officials have been invited to China to help with the investigation.
“It’s hard to anticipate what will happen,” Chen said of the 40 more people, including five Taiwanese remaining in Kenya awaiting trial, according to Quartz.
“It depends on whether China will continue using these illegal methods. China and Kenya are so close that whatever China wants to do, it probably can.”
Image credit: AP
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