Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) faced criticism at a legislative committee meeting yesterday over his “over-optimistic” interpretation of a response to the government’s request to visit Taiwanese detained in China following their deportation from Kenya.
At the Internal Administration Committee meeting, several lawmakers asked when the government planned to send officials to China to visit the 45 Taiwanese who were “illegally abducted” by China from Kenya on Friday last week and Tuesday.
Twenty-three of them were acquitted by a Kenyan court on Friday last week in a 2014 telecom fraud case, while the other 22 Taiwanese were among a group of 41 suspects arrested by Kenyan police on the same day.
When answering questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) regarding visiting the detained Taiwanese, Hsia said that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office sent a fax earlier yesterday welcoming such a visit and that the council would endeavor to make the trip possible within the next two or three days.
“Although Beijing requires more time to handle some administrative procedures and collect evidence, we have stressed the importance of a visit,” Hsia said.
Hsia said that as the heads of government agencies including the council, the Ministry of Justice, the Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Straits Exchange Foundation were swamped with work, their deputies might go instead.
However, after obtaining a copy of the fax — which the council said was classified — People First Party Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) accused Hsia of being naively optimistic and making a fool of lawmakers.
“It clearly states that ‘it would be inconvenient for you to send people here for communications at the moment.’ Is my Mandarin too poor to understand this sentence, or is the council being too optimistic?” Chen asked.
“We have no doubt such a visit would be possible and we will talk to agencies [in Beijing] regarding the matter,” Hsia said.
Chen said the content of the fax by no means suggested that China would allow such a visit in the near future, before handing over the document to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who is convener of the committee.
Chen Chi-mai then read out the fax: “We welcome your officials. We are willing to engage in cross-strait communications within the framework of the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement (海峽兩岸共同打擊犯罪及司法互助協議).”
“As the suspects have just been brought back, we still need some time to undergo processes and verify certain issues. Hence, it would be inconvenient for you to send people here for discussions at the moment, but we will actively prepare for bilateral communications. We will keep you informed. The wait will not be too long,” the fax said.
“However, we must stress that according to Chinese law, it would be difficult for us to arrange a visit with the suspects. Nevertheless, if families of the suspects file for visitation rights, we would process them in accordance with the regulations,” it said.