(Adds China Foreign Ministry comment in paragraphs 8 and 9)
TAIPEI Jan 3 Taiwan on Tuesday strongly
objected to the deportation from Vietnam to China of four
Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecommunications fraud,
saying the move was carried out under pressure from Beijing.
The latest deportation followed a series of similar cases
this year where Taiwanese nationals in Kenya, Malaysia, Armenia
and Cambodia have been arrested for alleged involvement in
cross-border telecom scam groups and sent to China.
The deportations arose from the "one-China" policy of most
countries under which they maintain formal relations only with
the People's Republic of China rather than Taiwan, a self-ruled
island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.
The four suspects, along with one Chinese national, were
arrested in the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong in
December. Despite repeated requests from Taiwan envoys in
Vietnam to have the four deported to Taiwan, they were
"forcibly" sent to China, Taiwan's foreign ministry said.
"China said that in this case the victims were mostly in
China and demanded Vietnam to repatriate all of the suspects to
China (based on a bilateral legal treaty), obstructing our
efforts to understand the case and visit the Taiwanese
suspects," it said in a statement.
Taiwan's China policymaker, the Mainland Affairs Council
(MAC), urged Beijing on Tuesday to open dialogue as soon as
possible, saying its actions were unhelpful in tracing the
source of the cross-border fraud groups and affected mutual
trust in joint Chinese-Taiwanese crime-fighting efforts.
China has suspended dialogue with Taipei since June, a month
after pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen took office as Taiwan's
president, because Tsai has refused to accept Beijing's "one
China" principle that deems Taiwan a part of China.
"China and Vietnam maintain close cooperation in combating
cross-border telecoms and internet fraud crime," Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing on
Geng did not comment on Taiwan's objection, saying it was
not a foreign affairs matter.
According to MAC officials, there are over 200 Taiwanese
suspected of telecom fraud who have been deported from third
countries to China this year.
Chinese authorities have sought to contain an explosion of
telecom 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 self-ruled Taiwan increasingly setting
up operations in East Africa or Southeast Asia.
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Additional reporting by Michael Martina
in Beijing; editing by Mark Heinrich)