Taiwanese authorities have been attempting to prevent Malaysia from deporting 52 suspects linked to phone scams in the country from being deported to China instead of Taiwan. The incident follows recent deportation of Taiwanese to China by Kenya.

Fifty-three Taiwanese were arrested by Malaysian authorities on March 25, alongside 65 from mainland China and two Malaysians. One of the 53 Taiwanese had a work permit in Malaysia, thus was released and will not be deported.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that 20 of those detained were scheduled to fly back to Taiwan, but Malaysian officials had delayed the flight, saying that legal approval was needed, according to the official Central News Agency.

taiwan protest china
File photo: Reuters/Pichi Chuang.

This week, Kenya deported 45 Taiwanese phone scam suspects to China, although 23 of them were cleared of charges.

The Foreign Ministry said it, and the Taiwanese official representatives to Malaysia, had been alerted to the “sensitive timing” and they will continue to actively negotiate with Malaysia to “bring the suspects back to our country” for investigation.

Diplomatic channels opened

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice and Mainland Affairs Council were also brought in to assist with the incident. The two agencies have said they have contacted China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

Unnamed Malaysian officials, speaking anonymously as they were not authorised to talk to media, confirmed to the Associated Press that Chinese officials had requested the suspects be sent to China.

The officials told AP the case was still under discussion and were unable to give further details.

Xinhua ‘apology’ 

On Thursday, Chinese state media Xinhua news agency published an interview with two of the Taiwanese suspects deported by Kenya to China. They apologised to the victims who fell into their phone scams.

The CCTV programme which two suspects confessed and apologised to victims.
A CCTV programme in which two suspects confessed and apologised to victims. Photo: CCTV screencap.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV covered the Kenya deportations extensively, spending 13 minutes out of a 30-minute news session on Friday noon on the incident.

Another programme at 12:30pm also spent nine minutes on the two suspects interviewed by Xinhua, and showed clips of them “confessing” and “apologising” to victims.

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.