The Philippines recently deported 14 Taiwanese and 10 Chinese accused of involvement in an international fraud ring to China. However, Taiwan is not under Chinese legal authority. The deportation of the Taiwanese by the Philippines was an obvious breach of international law and human rights.
Nevertheless, the incident might have a “happy-ending” in a few days. The deportation was nothing but an effort by the parties involved — China, the Philippines and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration — to create bargaining chips out of nothing.
It has been reported that Taipei has been in negotiations with Beijing and is awaiting China’s answer sometime after the Lunar New Year holiday. The reports imply Beijing was going to keep the Taiwanese in custody for a few days before sending them to Taiwan.
If these reports are true, then Beijing has won its position of “nominal legal jurisdiction” or suzerainty over Taiwanese as a result of the deportation.
The interrogation, custody and legal documents created will all strengthen Beijing’s suzerainty over Taiwanese. Beijing will surely claim this deportation as a precedent and ask foreign governments to deport Taiwanese to China as is they were Chinese citizens.
Beijing has won the suzerainty: It does not need to hold the Taiwanese suspects in custody for long. If China does hold them for some time, it will earn nothing but the ire of Taiwanese and could certainly jeopardize Ma’s re-election chances.
Former National Security Council secretary-general Su-chi (蘇起) said of the incident that it was necessary to “calm down whatever relates to the sovereignty.”
He seems to foresee a happy-ending, which I can’t see yet. Therefore, the retaliatory reactions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the Philippines must just be for show.
The Philippines, on the other hand, deported the Taiwanese to China at the request of Beijing. It did have a “legal basis” to do so, as well as a diplomatic reason.
China signed a memorandum of understanding with the WHO in 2003, in which the WHO agreed that all information for Taiwan would pass through Beijing first. China then agreed that Taiwan could receive an observer invitation — under the name of Chinese Taipei — to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA) on an annual basis. The Philippines followed the China-WHO memorandum and chose to kowtow.
We should also not forget about the bus full of Hong Kong tourists who were kidnapped in Manila in August last year. The Philippines police attacked the bus and eight of the tourists died in the shootout. Beijing was very angry and the deportation of 14 Taiwanese could be an attempt by the Philippines to help mend relations after for the bus incident.
Beijing is now also propagandizing its rescue of Taiwanese tourists from the recent turmoil in Egypt. Beijing will undoubtedly publicize its suzerainty over Taiwan as a result of the deportation.
What kind of “happy-ending” is possible for the three parties?
Hoon Ting is an independent Taiwanese researcher.