A recent judicial exchange trip taken by a Taiwanese foundation to China’s Fujian Province—to secure the welfare of Taiwanese prisoners—has been described as insubstantial and largely for show by experts and commentators.
The Straits Exchange Foundation on Aug. 4 sent a delegation to the Putian Prison in Fujian, southern China, where Taiwanese businessmen are detained. Neither the number, nor identities, nor purported crimes of the merchants have been disclosed by Chinese authorities.
The delegation visited the prison ostensibly to satisfy their humanitarian concerns over the status of the prisoners, but in the end had no contact with the imprisoned merchants.
William Kao, president of Victims of Investment in China Association, said that he acknowledged the group’s visit, but argueed that they should have been more proactive in finding out how many Taiwanese businessman are behind Chinese bars.
“The foundation should have given us a number at least,” he said. “Exactly how many Taiwanese merchants are put in prison? Is it 2,000, 3,000, or even more?”
Only after the number of prisoners and the charges against them are known, Mr. Kao said, can the government determine the number of unjustified cases. While a number of businessmen were sent to jail presumably due to tax evasion or illicit smuggling, some may also have been falsely accused. Commonly, when a Taiwanese citizen is jailed in China, by the time he gets back home the authorities have already confiscated his property and belongings, leaving him with nothing.
“China’s judicial system is almost like an exploiter,” Mr. Kao said, adding that a cursory visit the prison is not enough.
“Instead, the foundation should conduct a comprehensive investigation into the issue, so we can start sending legal assistance to them,” he said.
Since Taiwan and China signed an agreement on cross-strait mutual assistance in cracking down on crime a year and a half ago, China sent back only one Taiwanese national.
Mr. Te-Shun Liu, the deputy-minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affair Council, said that most of the cases are in Fujian province, the focus area of the foundation’s trip. It is essential to shift the target from Beijing to local governments and prisons to better implement the agreement of mutual judicial assistance, he says.
Another expert, Taiwanese lawyer Ms Tung Wen-hsun, said that the agreement has not been effective due to the corruption within the Chinese judicial system.
The Taiwanese government is willing to cooperate with the Chinese to investigate their citizens who have broken Chinese laws, regardless of whether they have violated Taiwanese laws, according to the agreement.
“It’s almost like Taiwan has given its judicial and human rights decisions to a totalitarian regime,” said Mr. Tung.