By Roy Mabasa
Taiwan strongly urged the Philippine government not to deport 78 Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects to China so as to avoid serious disputes and cause international frictions and regional instability.
The 78 Taiwanese nationals, along with 73 Chinese nationals, were arrested last January 13 during three simultaneous operations conducted by the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) in Ilocos Sur and Metro Manila for their alleged involvement in telecommunication fraud.
According to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines, to exert pressure on the Philippines, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Kong Xuan You traveled to Manila supposedly to strongly demand that the 78 Taiwanese suspects should stand trial in China instead of Taiwan.
TECO, however, argued that this is against international practices and that the Chinese government has no legal grounds to do so.
“In accordance with the international laws and international common practices, any sovereign country which detained criminal suspects in its own territory is entitled to investigate, prosecute and try those suspects,” it emphasized in a statement. “Moreover, if they are not guilty, in the event of deportation, they should be deported back to their country of origin or to the port of their embarkation. To deport them to a third authoritarian and repressive country not only violates the international laws and practices, but also disrespect of human rights.”
TECO further pointed out that the 78 Taiwanese are holding Taiwan passports and Taiwan travel documents.
“They are Taiwanese nationals and their country of origin is Taiwan,” it stressed. “If these Taiwanese have been handed over to China, this will anger the Taiwan government and public opinion to lash back against the Philippines and China because of China’s opaque legal system and disrespect of human rights.”
Likewise, TECO said that the 78 suspects will have no lawyer to represent them in China and they are currently applying for the writ of habeas corpus.
“The Philippine government should exercise its own sovereign legal rights to investigate, prosecute and try them, not to kowtow to China and send them to China,” it said.
Taiwan has no formal diplomatic relations with the Philippines in deference to the One-China Policy, which prevents countries from recognizing the self-ruling democratic island as a state.