China to Try 45 Taiwanese Nationals, Deepening Diplomatic Row

  • Taiwanese suspects have confessed to crimes, ministry says
  • Suspects were deported to China for alleged crimes in Kenya

China plans to try 45 Taiwanese nationals deported from Kenya, in a move likely to heighten tensions between the two sides weeks before a new president takes office in Taipei.

China will try the Taiwanese because mainland residents had been among the victims of the alleged Nairobi-based telecommunications scheme that led to their detentions in the African nation, Chen Shiqu of the criminal investigation bureau of China’s Ministry of Public Security said on the bureau’s official Weibo social media account.

“We shall investigate, prosecute and try the criminal rings according to relevant mainland laws,” he said. The suspects had confessed during interrogation, the ministry said on the blog, without specifying what they were charged with.

Kenya deported the men this month after some were acquitted of fraud charges in the African nation, a decision the Taiwanese government denounced as “an illegal abduction.” Kenya maintains diplomatic relations with China and has no formal ties with Taiwan. The two sides have governed separately since 1949, when the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in a civil war against the Communists.

The episode may pose a diplomatic test for incoming Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, who takes office May 20. Tsai has frustrated Beijing by remaining ambiguous on the so-called 1992 consensus 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.

A delegation from Ma’s government traveled to Beijing this week to meet with mainland authorities about the deportees. The Taiwanese officials were allowed to observe the detainees via the detention center’s video system and met with their lawyers, the Public Security Ministry said on the microblog.

Taiwan is seeking the return of the suspects for investigation and possible trial in Taiwan. China has agreed to a joint investigation into any allegations against the suspects, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice said in a statement on April 21.

The case has also highlighted China’s growing influence in Africa, and in particular Kenya, where China controlled about 57 percent of the public debt as of June, according to a World Bank report released last month.

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