Beijing Pressures Countries to Deport Taiwanese Nationals to China, Report Says

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
December 1, 2021 Updated: December 1, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan—China is pressuring countries to deport citizens of Taiwan to mainland China, Madrid-based human rights group Safeguard Defenders stated in its latest report.

In doing so, the communist regime is undermining the self-ruled island’s sovereignty, the human rights group wrote in its Nov. 30 report, “China’s Hunt for Taiwanese Overseas.” The Taiwanese nationals being targeted by the regime for deportation or extradition to mainland China are those who are suspected of having committed crimes outside of Taiwan.

Taiwanese criminal suspects are hardly the only group of people the Chinese regime pursues “without hesitation” to violate international norms, according to the report. Other groups included Uyghur refugees, human rights defenders, and fleeing Hongkongers.

However, the report noted that the plight of Taiwanese nationals has received far less attention, considering that more than 600 citizens of Taiwan were extradited to China from around the world between 2016 and 2019.

During that four-year span, Spain has deported a total of 219 Taiwanese nationals to China, the highest number among eight countries, according to the report. Cambodia has deported 117 such nationals, the Philippines 79, Armenia 78, Malaysia 53, Kenya 45, Indonesia 18, and Vietnam 1.

“The fundamental issue here is that the denial of fundamental human rights in China, namely the right to a fair trial and to be free of torture, are systematically denied,” Michael Caster, a senior adviser at Safeguard Defenders who worked on the report, told The Epoch Times in an email. “Under international legal norms, the principle of non-refoulement dictates that no individual is to be sent to a country where they are at risk of persecution and [of a] denial of fundamental rights.”

Chinese courts are notorious for being a tool used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence critics and punish dissidents. Prisoners and detainees have reported beatings, sexual assaults, torture, limited or no access to medical care, and other ill-treatment inside Chinese prisons and detention centers.

“Regarding treatment of Taiwanese nationals following forced transfer to China, we have seen mixed reports,” Caster said. “Of concern, there have been cases of forced confessions. In other cases, Taiwanese nationals have been denied visitation or communication with their family members in Taiwan.”

Caster said Safeguard Defenders didn’t come across cases of Taiwanese nationals being sent to China in the past year and warned that the risk for those from the self-ruled island remains.

“No doubt this is not an indication of the trend receding and instead is just a result of COVID,” he said.

taipei skyline
The Taipei 101 tower, once the world’s tallest building, and the Taipei skyline are pictured from the top of Elephant Mountain in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 7, 2020. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

International Support

Safeguard Defenders has called on the international community to take a stance against China’s current practice against the Taiwanese people.

“The U.S. and other governments should make it clear that they will not agree to deport or extradite Taiwanese nationals from their countries to China,” Caster said. “Beyond Taiwanese nationals, in light of the severity of human rights concerns in China, all countries should declare an immediate moratorium on all extraditions and deportations to China.”

The report states that the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty doesn’t even have to come up if governments choose to side with the island.

“This opposition doesn’t even have to wade into the politically charged ‘One China’ narratives, but should be based simply on international norms and states’ obligations,” the report reads.

China sees Taiwan as a part of its territory, to be united with the mainland by force if necessary. As a result, the communist regime believes the Taiwanese government doesn’t have the right to carry out government-level engagement with other countries or take part in international organizations such as the World Health Organization or the International Criminal Police Organization.

Many countries, including the United States, hold a “one-China policy,” which states that there’s only one sovereign state with the name “China,” although that differs from the “one-China principle,” under which the Chinese regime asserts sovereignty over Taiwan.

However, some countries have adopted a “one-China” policy that’s in line with the position of the CCP. In 2016, when Kenya deported 45 Taiwanese nationals to China, the Kenyan government stated that it considered Taiwan to be part of “one China.” Kenya’s decision drew the praise of the communist regime, applauding the African nation for upholding the “one-China principle.”

The Taiwanese government has tried to intervene before its citizens have been sent to China. In 2017, before Cambodia extradited seven Taiwanese criminal suspects to China, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice attempted to negotiate with China’s Ministry of Public Security and Cambodian officials, but to no avail, according to the report.

The report applauds the decision made by the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic in April 2020, when it rejected China’s extradition request for eight Taiwanese nationals.

One reason cited by the court for turning down China’s request was that it found China’s diplomatic assurances that the Taiwanese nationals wouldn’t be subjected to inhumane treatment to be “insufficient” and “unreliable.”

Another reason given was that the court said it lacked confidence that Czech consular staff in China would have access to the Taiwanese nationals since the “right of access is not guaranteed under Chinese law.”

“The Czech High Court decision should stand as global precedent and shape subsequent decisions on the extradition of Taiwanese nationals,” the report reads.

Moving forward, the report asks China to abide by its agreement with Taiwan on law enforcement and judicial cooperation. The international community also “needs to step up” in welcoming Taiwan to take part in international organizations, including Interpol, the report states.

“By nearly all indicators, Taiwan is strong on civil and political rights, internet freedom, and other key human rights and rule of law metrics,” Caster said. “Taiwan should be embraced by all democratic governments as an important counter-weight to the repressive spread of the China model, around the region and around the world.”

Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.