TAIPEI — Taiwan protested Wednesday after Armenia deported 78 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China, the latest such deportation to spark a dispute with Beijing.
According to Taiwanese authorities and media, the Armenian police confiscated the suspects’ passports, computers and mobile phones and banned them from leaving Armenia on August 26. It is not clear whether the Taiwanese visited Armenia on business or as tourists and what type of fraud they were suspected of.
The Armenian authorities have not yet confirmed the police raid or the reported deportations. A police spokesperson told the Arminfo news agency last week that the police “have no information” about the incident.
The AFP news agency reported that Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry protested at the Armenian government’s actions and vowed to report the incident to international human rights organizations.
“Due process is lacking in the investigation of the case… the Armenia government has seriously violated human rights and international legal principles and precedents,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to Taiwannnews.com, Yerevan refused to issue visas to officials from a Taiwanese diplomatic mission in Moscow when they attempted to visit Armenia and discuss the plight of the 78 Taiwanese citizens last week.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), its top China policy-making body, said it immediately lodged a protest with Beijing after being notified of the deportation.
“We have repeatedly demanded the Chinese side not to deport our people to mainland China. The Chinese side’s action again disregarded our call … and further hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people,” it said in a statement.
The MAC said it would continue negotiating with China to secure the suspects’ return to Taiwan to face trial.
Armenia’s actions are the latest in a series of deportations of Taiwanese to China, with Taipei accusing Beijing of “abducting” citizens from countries that do not recognise the Taiwanese government.
Analysts see the deportation cases as a Chinese bid to pressure Taiwan’s new Beijing-sceptic leader Tsai Ing-wen, who took office in May.
But Beijing insists that Taiwanese fraud suspects should be sent to China to face trial because their telephone fraud crimes largely target mainland Chinese.