BEIJING (Reuters) - China will try the 45 Taiwan suspects in a telecoms fraud case who were deported by Kenya to China this month, the Chinese government told a delegation from Taiwan, state media reported, in a case that has angered the self-ruled island.
China is battling an explosion of telecoms fraud that has cost billions of dollars in financial losses and driven some victims to suicide, say authorities in Beijing, who blame the scams on criminal gangs based in rival Taiwan.
Kenya does not have official relations with democratic Taiwan and considers it part of “one China”, in line with the position of Communist Party leaders in Beijing, who regard Taiwan as a wayward province.
Kenya said it deported the group back to where it came from. Taiwan accused China of effectively kidnapping its citizens, while China said it was simply going after criminals.
An official of China’s Ministry of Public Security repeated that statement to the Taiwan delegation, state news agency Xinhua said late on Thursday.
“The suspects specifically targeted people on the Chinese mainland and their victims are from the mainland. Not to mention that many of the suspects are themselves from the mainland,” said the official, Chen Shiqu.
“They will thus be investigated, prosecuted and tried in accordance with mainland law,” he added.
All the Taiwan suspects have already admitted their guilt, Chen said.
“Mainland police will spare no efforts in dealing with telecom fraud syndicates, and we expect authorities in Taiwan will do the same and offer support to the mainland in returning their illicit gains,” he added.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice, in a statement late on Thursday, said the delegation had visited the suspects in a Beijing detention center and they seemed in good health, with two of already having appointed lawyers.
It added that the two sides had agreed to establish principles to fight crime together to ensure criminals were brought to justice and victims protected.
Details, such as when the Taiwan suspects would be able to return to the island, would be worked out in negotiations, the justice ministry said.
Over the weekend, China slammed Taiwan for freeing 20 Taiwan suspects deported to the island from Malaysia, in a separate telecoms fraud case linked to China.
But on Thursday Taiwan prosecutors changed their position and took most of them into custody.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI; Editing by Clarence Fernandez