By J.R. Wu and Faith Hung
Kenyan police broke through a police station wall and threw tear gas to force a second group of Taiwanese on to a plane bound for China on Tuesday, Taiwan‘s foreign ministry said, in a bizarre diplomatic row in which Taiwan has accused China of abduction.
But a senior Kenyan official said the people were in Kenya illegally and were being sent back to where they had come from.
Taiwan on Monday accused China, which regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province, of kidnapping eight of its nationals, who it said had been acquitted in a cyber crime case in Kenya, and deporting them to China on Friday from the Nairobi district of Kilimani.
It said China had pressured Kenyan police to put the eight on the plane. China said at the time it was seeking further information about the case.
“These ones were people who were here illegally and they were deported back to the place where they had come from,” Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry, told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday.
“They came from China and we took them to China… Usually when you go to another country illegally, you are taken back to your last port of departure.”
On Tuesday, another 37 Taiwan nationals were forced on to a Chinese plane, Taiwan‘s Foreign Ministry said.
“The 15 locked up at the police station steadfastly refused to be deported (to China),” said Antonio C.S. Chen, the chief of Taiwan‘s foreign ministry department in charge of West Asian and African Affairs.
“So police broke through the wall, threw tear gas and then about 10 police entered with assault rifles,” Chen told a news briefing in Taipei.
When asked about the use of force, Njoka said that Kenyan police had “an obligation to ensure if people are here illegally they are taken back to where they came from”.
China views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after a civil war with the Communists now in control in Beijing.
Only 22 countries recognise Taiwan as the “Republic of China”, with most, including Kenya, having diplomatic relations with the “People’s Republic of China”, recognising the “one China” policy of its Communist Party leaders in Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about the case, said China approved of Kenya’s upholding the “one China” principle. He declined to elaborate.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, which has said it was looking into the incident, did not immediately respond to further request for comment.
Kenya’s attorney-general said in January it was considering a request from Beijing to extradite 76 Chinese charged with cyber crime in Kenya for trial in their homeland.
But Taiwan said some of these people were from Taiwan and that a total of 23 of its people had been acquitted last Tuesday by a Kenyan court and given 21 days to leave.
Taiwan has been in an uproar since the eight were forcibly deported.
On Tuesday, Joseph Wu, secretary-general of Taiwan‘s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which distrusts China, called on Beijing to release those in its custody.
“This kind of action deepens the negative perception Taiwan society has of the Chinese side and is completely useless for the positive development of cross-strait relations,” said Wu.
Chen said the 15 Taiwanese put on the plane on Tuesday likely had barred the door into the room they were being held in, while video footage carried by Taiwan media showed young men speaking the Taiwanese dialect in a cramped room, readying for a fight against a closed door.
The video footage could not be verified by Reuters.