Taiwan hit out at Spain on Saturday for deporting nearly 100 of its citizens accused of telecom fraud to China, following years of legal wrangling over the case.

The repatriation of the group — who are suspected of defrauding Chinese nationals over the phone — is likely to heighten cross-strait tensions as Taipei maintains its citizens will not receive a fair trial in China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “concern and deep regret” over the move and said in a statement that Spain had ignored calls from the UN not to proceed with the deportations.

taiwan flag
Photo: Taiwan Gov’t.

The group of 94 Taiwanese were arrested in 2016 after raids by Spanish and Chinese police, according to Beijing.

Lawyers and local rights groups had fought in the Spanish courts to halt the deportations.

But Beijing says that because all the victims were from mainland China, the group should be prosecuted in its courts.

Beijing views self-ruling Taiwan as a breakaway part of its territory.

Since the election of Taiwan’s China-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, it has begun insisting fraud suspects should be deported to the mainland, where they often serve lengthy sentences.

Spain has already extradited 225 fraud suspects to China, including 218 Taiwanese, China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Numerous other countries have agreed in recent years to deport Taiwanese fraud suspects to China despite protests from Taipei.

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