Kenya Disputes Taiwan Account of Forced Deportations to China

TAIWAN-KENYA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-CRIME

Workers paste a sign reading 'China illegally abducts Taiwanese people' during a press conference in Taipei on April 12.

Photographer: Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
  • Police employed 'reasonable force' to remove island's citizens
  • Taiwan says tear gas used in operation to force 15 onto plane

Kenya denied Taiwanese claims that authorities in the African nation smashed through a detention facility wall and threw tear gas to force a group of the island’s citizens to be deported to mainland China.

The Kenyan government was responding to the latest allegations Tuesday in a diplomatic tussle over dozens of Taiwanese nationals facing deportation in Nairobi after being acquitted of telecommunication fraud. Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang said police broke down a wall and unleashed riot gas to make 15 Taiwanese board a China-bound plane -- the second such claim of "illegal abduction" made by the Taiwanese government in two days.

"There isn’t anything like that," said Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka, adding that authorities were entitled to use "reasonable force" to compel people without travel permits to leave. "If they are uncooperative, police have an obligation to ensure they comply with deportation."

China and Taiwan have been separately governed since 1949, when the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in a civil war against the Communists. Kenya maintains diplomatic relations with China and has no formal ties with Taiwan.

Acquitted of Fraud

The detention facility scuffle in Kenya comes after Taiwan accused Chinese authorities of "illegally abducting" eight of its citizens facing deportation from the country. The Taiwanese were among 37 Chinese-speaking individuals acquitted of telecommunications fraud on April 5 and given 21 days to renew their visas. Kenyan officials said Monday the eight men originally traveled to Kenya from mainland China and that’s why they were sent back to China, rather than Taiwan.

If not resolved quickly, the episode could pose a diplomatic test for incoming Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, who takes office May 20. Tsai has frustrated Beijing by declining to accept the so-called one-China negotiating framework that has underpinned expanded ties under outgoing president, Ma Ying-jeou. Under it, both sides agree they’re part of one China, even if they disagree on what that means.

One-China Policy

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang declined to comment on specifics of the case, but reiterated that China requires other countries to embrace the "one-China policy" before it establishes bilateral relations, the Associated Press reported. "We think highly of the long-standing position of Kenyan government in sticking to the one-China policy," Lu said.

Joseph Wu, the secretary general of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, told a news briefing Tuesday that the deportations were reinforcing negative views of China and that such incidents wouldn’t help improve relations across the Taiwan Strait. Wu called for China to return the group to Taiwan.

Foreign affairs officials urged Taiwanese citizens facing deportation in Kenya to "exercise their free will" and refuse to board any China-bound planes, Chen Chun-shen, Taiwan’s chief of West Asian and African affairs, said at a televised briefing in Taipei.

In 2011, the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese suspects to China who were part of an investigation into cross-border fraud. In that incident, China eventually repatriated the suspects to Taiwan under a cross-strait mutual legal assistance agreement signed under Ma in 2009.

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