Earlier this week, 45 Taiwanese nationals were brought to Beijing for telecom fraud despite having previously been acquitted by a Kenyan court. The men were accused of posing as law enforcement officials and extorting large sums of money from residents in mainland China. According to Chinese officials, the fraudsters targeted elderly citizens; in one of the worst cases, a person in Guizhou lost 180 million US dollars last December. On Friday, Chinese officials said the Taiwanese suspects will face trial on the mainland, refusing Taiwan’s request that they be sent back to Taiwan.
The Kenyan government does not recognize Taiwan as a separate country, so the legal process has proceeded in China, instead of Taiwan. However, there are speculations that China pressured the Kenyan government to hand over the criminals.
Previously, Chinese authorities have allowed Taiwan to separately deal with their own suspects. The current situation has sparked diplomatic conflict between the Chinese and Taiwanese Governments. In reaction to the “kidnapping of Taiwanese nationals,” politicians are now questioning President Ma Ying-jeou’s Beijing-friendly stance and the rapprochement with mainland China.
Despite Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan is part of China, Taiwan has been ruled with a different political system than China since the end of the civil war. In the most recent presidential election, president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who came from a pro-independence party, won in a landslide victory against the nominee from the Beijing-friendly Nationalist party. Some political analysts have suggested that Beijing is making a statement of dominance with this conflict.