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China cuts off Taiwan over deportation row

Chinese and Taiwanese nationals prepare to be deported to the Chinese mainland last week, a move Taiwan protested. Photo supplied
Chinese and Taiwanese nationals prepare to be deported to the Chinese mainland last week, a move Taiwan protested. Photo supplied

China cuts off Taiwan over deportation row

A spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has labelled as “absurd” China’s decision to suspend relations after Taiwan complained about China “capturing” 25 Taiwanese nationals accused of telecommunications fraud in Cambodia.

Cambodia on Friday deported the 25 Taiwanese and 14 Chinese nationals to China after they were arrested in Phnom Penh during a raid of an alleged voice over internet protocol (VoIP) scam targeting victims in mainland China.

An Fengshan, spokesman of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, on Saturday said ties between the two countries were “currently in suspension” over the failure by Taiwan to recognise a 1992 consensus that endorses the “One China” principle, according to a statement posted on the office’s website.

The move to cut ties was in reaction to Taiwan’s opposition to Friday’s deportations, said Frances Lee, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She said such action was “absurd”, saying it was Taiwan who should be angry, not the other way around.

“They actually captured our nationals,” she said. “It’s irrational. We use rational ways to deal with our neighbours.”

Cheng Hongbo, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, didn’t respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Steve Tsang, a professor and China-Taiwan relations expert at the University of Nottingham in the UK, said when countries cut this kind of communication, it was usually to send a “message” or for “punishment”.

“Governments only do that to put pressure on the other side,” he said. “Stopping communication will not help with resolving differences, problems and difficulties.”

Cambodia could not be blamed, he said, although the Kingdom’s decision to deport the Taiwanese nationals to China was unusual. “It violates human rights fundamentally,” he said. “It’s a political decision. Why would someone be deported to a third country?”

Lee claimed that Taiwan and China signed an agreement around 2010 regarding deportations. The agreement specified that Taiwanese nationals would be deported to Taiwan not China and vice versa.

She added that Taiwan would continue to try to bring its citizens home. “We have the obligation to protect them,” she said, adding that by Taiwan’s count, there should only be 18 Taiwanese nationals among those arrested, but officials were gathering more information.

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