A legislative hearing turned stormy yesterday as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Shih Hui-fen (施惠芬) was grilled over Kenya’s deportation of eight Taiwanese to China and lawmakers criticized the council for its lack of information on the matter.
The Legislative Yuan’s Finance Committee and Internal Administration Committee had jointly convened a morning meeting to examine the central government’s general financial statement for the 2014 fiscal year.
However, after news broke an hour before the scheduled start of the meeting that eight Taiwanese recently acquitted in a telecommunication fraud case in Kenya had been deported to China on Friday, several legislators called up Shih — the highest-ranking council official at the meeting — to answer questions about the incident.
New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) asked Shih about the eight’s whereabouts.
“They were acquitted in Kenya. Our understanding is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sought to arrange for their return to Taiwan, but China later took them to the mainland. The Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Investigation Bureau are contacting their Chinese counterparts to address the matter,” Shih told Huang.
“So in other words, you have no idea where they are?” Huang said.
“We still need to make some horizontal communications,” Shih replied.
Huang was not satisfied by Shih’s answer to his question about how China had pressured the Kenyan police into deporting the Taiwanese to China and when they would be returned home.
“You often tout the benefits of cross-strait treaties, but this incident will serve as a test as to whether your words can actually match reality,” Huang said before urging the council to “toughen up” and keep the public informed of the latest developments in the deportation case.
Fielding questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), Shih said the council was notified of the deportations about midnight on Friday and that it was only aware that the plane carrying the eight had flown to Guangzhou, China.
“The deportation of the eight Taiwanese to China violated a consensus reached between Taipei and Beijing following a similar incident in 2011 that their nationals who commit wrongdoings in a foreign nation should be deported to their respective countries,” Shih said.
She was referring to the Philippines’ deportation of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China for trial in February 2011.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) asked Shih if the cross-strait hotline between the council and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, set up in December last year, had played any part in the council’s efforts to ensure the eight are returned home.
As of yesterday morning, the hotline had yet to be connected, Shih said.
“Now should be the best time to use the cross-strait hotline. If you do not use the hotline, then what is the point of setting it up in the first place?” Lee said.
“President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) historic meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in November last year will be meaningless if such a simple matter cannot be addressed,” Lee said.