Beijing has been pressuring foreign governments to extradite Taiwan nationals to China as part of an effort to undermine the self-ruled island, says human rights group Safeguard Defenders, and the pressure has increased since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president five years ago.
The China-focused human rights group’s investigation showed that at least 610 Taiwanese were extradited or deported by foreign governments to China instead of Taiwan between 2016 and 2019 — mostly from countries in Asia but also from Spain, Armenia and Kenya. Most had been accused of telecom fraud.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, but the two agreed more than a decade ago that police would work together in third countries to return overseas suspects to their respective territories.
Safeguard Defenders said Beijing had been increasingly ignoring that deal, especially since the election of Tsai, who the group claims wants independence for the self-ruled island.
“This international persecution of Taiwan nationals amounts to an assault on Taiwanese sovereignty, and is part of the larger global campaign under Xi Jinping to exploit extradition treaties, mutual law enforcement agreements, and other multilateral institutions for the Chinese Communist Party’s political objectives,” Safeguard Defenders said in the report published on Wednesday.
The report said the transfers often took place after the Taiwanese were denied access to consular support or communication from Taipei, and were sometimes followed by ongoing denial of contact with Taiwanese officials or family members once they were in China.
Under international law, no country is supposed to send anyone to another country where they are at risk of persecution or gross human rights abuses.
Safeguard Defenders said China “wantonly denied, with impunity” fundamental human rights with policies including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and forced confessions.
It urged the international community to take immediate steps to intervene in the practice, and immediately oppose the extradition of Taiwanese nationals to China.