Beijing jails 44 Taiwanese deported from Kenya for telecoms fraud

Taipei critical of case, saying vital evidence was ignored

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 9:41pm

A Beijing court on Thursday handed down jail sentences of up to 15 years for telecoms fraud to 50 people who were deported from Kenya, including 44 from self-ruled Taiwan.

Taiwan’s government criticised the case, saying Beijing had ignored vital evidence.

Over the past two years countries including Kenya, Spain, Vietnam and Cambodia have deported hundreds of people from Taiwan to mainland China for telecoms fraud, sparking accusations from Taipei that Beijing was effectively kidnapping its citizens.

Beijing has defended the deportations, saying the crimes were committed against people on the mainland and that as Taiwan is a part of China it was natural that foreign governments should send these people to the mainland rather than Taiwan.

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In a brief statement, the Beijing court said that the 50 were given jail terms ranging from one year and nine months to 15 years and had also been given unspecified fines.

It did not give specific details of the sentences for the 44 people from Taiwan. The cases were tried in two separate batches.

Taiwan’s China policymaking Mainland Affairs Council said Taiwan and the mainland had initially agreed to cooperate in investigating the Kenya case, but Beijing had gone back on its word.

The outside world could only believe justice had been done if the case had fully considered all the evidence and gone through proper legal procedure, the council added.

“In this case, we obtained intelligence on the criminal suspects behind the scenes,” it said.

“We again call on the mainland China side to cooperate with our public security organs, investigate the origins and not allow the masterminds behind the scenes to get away with it.”

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On at least two occasions last year Kenya deported groups of Taiwanese to mainland China. In one case, a Kenyan magistrate said the Taiwanese should be repatriated to their place of origin, Taiwan, but the Kenyan government sent them to the mainland.

Kenya, like most countries, only has diplomatic relations with Beijing. Beijing considers democratic Taiwan a wayward province, ineligible for formal ties with other nations.

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Mainland authorities have sought to contain an explosion of telecoms crime it says has led to huge financial losses, with callers often impersonating officials or authority figures and preying on the elderly, students or the unemployed.

The fraud has spread overseas, with Chinese speakers recruited in neighbouring Taiwan increasingly setting up operations in East Africa or Southeast Asia.

The deportations have come as relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated, with Beijing suspecting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of pushing for the island’s formal independence.

She says she wants to maintain peace with mainland China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.