Taiwanese authorities have said that 37 of its nationals in custody in Kenya are set to be deported to China, instead of Taiwan, a day after they denounced Kenya’s “illegal” and “uncivilised” decision to deport eight to the mainland.

The eight were part of a group of 23 Taiwanese cleared of involvement in a telecoms scam by a Kenyan court last Tuesday. The other 15 were taken by force from their detention centre after resisting for around an hour, before giving up, according to Taiwanese lawmaker Wu Ping-jui.

“[Kenyan] police broke through the wall, fired tear gas canisters, then some ten police with assault rifles entered,” Chen Chun-shen, chief of West Asian and and African affairs at Taiwan’s foreign ministry, told a press conference in Taipei.

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Chen said three staff members from the Chinese embassy in Kenya were present outside the detention centre.

The foreign ministry also confirmed that 22 other Taiwanese nationals, who were arrested last Friday, were taken away by staff members of the Chinese embassy in Kenya. They then boarded a plane to China.

Chen said that – unlike the other group of Taiwan nationals – the 22 had not faced trial in Kenya for similar charges.

Diplomatic staff ‘impeded’ 

Taiwan does not have diplomatic ties with Kenya, three Taiwanese representatives in South Africa – the nearest diplomatic staff available on the continent – visited the 22. However, they faced “all kinds of impediment” before being allowed access at the detention centre.

According to Chen, the detained Taiwanese nationals had been told by police that Taiwanese authorities had purchased tickets for them to return home. However, it was never the case, and the representatives present told them not to be deceived.

The 15 detained Taiwanese trying to block the door from forcefully opened; a foreign ministry press conference in Taipei.
The 15 detained Taiwanese trying to block the door from forcefully opened; a foreign ministry press conference in Taipei.

Of the eight Taiwanese already sent to Beijing, one of them is a dual citizen of Taiwan and the US, Chen said.

The Taiwanese foreign ministry said it was “very furious” about the incidents, adding that it had “lodged a stern protest” with the Chinese and Kenyan authorities.

Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said on Tuesday that it “highly appreciates” Kenya in “upholding the One China policy” in international affairs. It was an “important premise and necessary foundation” for China to develop relationships around the world, he said.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.