Row erupts over Kenya’s deportation of Taiwanese nationals to China

The case has turned into a major diplomatic incident, enraging Taiwanese officials, who accuse Kenya of illegal deportation and China of kidnapping.

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Kenya doesn’t recognise Taiwan as an independent country.

In amateur video uploaded online, a group of Taiwanese citizens is seen barricading themselves in their small prison cell.

They shout ‘We are Taiwan people, Taiwan people!’ but Kenyan police officers eventually retrieve them and put them on a plane – a plane bound not for their homeland, Taiwan, but for mainland China.

Chinese authorities say they have jurisdiction over the group, which included mainland Chinese, who were allegedly part of a telecom fraud ring operating out of Nairobi, costing mainland Chinese victims billions of yuan.

With black bags placed over their heads, dozens were deported under heavy security earlier this week, their whereabouts now unknown.

Chinese official Chen Shiqu is part of the investigation and says it’s legally correct the group was brought to China.

“Because the victims of this criminal gang are all mainland China’s residents. This criminal gang set up office in Kenya, pretended to be mainland public security people to make phone calls to mainland people and committed the fraud crazily. According to our country’s law, our judicial authority has the jurisdiction.”

Taiwan has accused Kenya of violating international law and trying to gain favour with China.

Kenya doesn’t have official relations with democratic Taiwan, considering the island part of ‘one China.’

The mother of one of the deportees, Rachel Liu, says she’s concerned her son won’t get a fair trial on the mainland.

“OK, no matter what, we still hope that (they can) return to their own country to be tried (in court), no matter if they are guilty or not. Even those who are guilty, we still hope that they all can be tried by the Taiwanese judicial system.”

A Nairobi-based lawyer representing 37 of the 111 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals involved says there are plans to sue.

The group had been acquitted of charges by a Kenyan court before their deportation.

Lawyer Steve Isinta says he doesn’t know the whereabouts of his clients or how they are being treated.

“No, it was not legally correct because these were people who had been acquitted by a court of law, there was no attempt that was made by the state to apply to court or to any other body of any form to justify why they wanted to deport them. I think the state was just disappointed by the verdict of the court and there is a recourse for that, not to deport.”

Only 22 countries recognise Taiwan as the Republic of China.

Most, including Kenya, have diplomatic relations with China’s leaders in Beijing.

The deportation case is yet another example of China’s desire to prove its legal reach.

Hong Kong authorities are still waiting for explanations from the mainland after five booksellers went missing in mysterious circumstances, only to be paraded on state television a few months later.