China sentences 13 Taiwanese nationals for telecom fraud

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China sentenced 13 Taiwanese to prison on Thursday for telecom fraud following their extradition from Kenya, in a move likely to further sour cross-straits ties.

The group was sentenced to between two and 15 years in prison and slapped with fines, the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court said on its official account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The question of how to deal with Taiwanese arrested abroad has become a sensitive diplomatic issue, with Taipei protesting that suspects should be returned to the self-ruled island, rather than the mainland.

China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949 and the island sees itself as a sovereign nation, but Beijing considers it a breakaway province that is part of its territory — a stance that most countries around the world recognise.

Ties between Beijing and Taipei have worsened since President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year over her refusal to acknowledge the island as part of “one China”.

Taipei has in the past accused Beijing of “abducting” Taiwanese suspected of committing fraud abroad and taking them to China.

“Our government’s stance has always been to send the Taiwanese suspects back to Taiwan for investigation and trial,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

“The verdict can only be accepted by the public… when conducted according to proper legal procedures and taking into account factors into human rights”, it added.

It also stated that it had intelligence on “the key suspect behind the crime” and called on China to cooperate with Taiwan security authorities “as soon as possible”.

The incident is the latest to involve the international deportation of a Taiwanese suspect, and analysts see the cases as part of Beijing’s bid to pile pressure on Tsai.

A Spanish court said last week it had also decided to allow the extradition of Taiwanese fraud suspects to China despite protests by Taipei, which hoped to take back its citizens.

(Agence France-Presse)

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