Chinese system key as Spain considers deportations: expert

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Nov 10, 2018 - Page 3

Legal experts and human rights advocates have criticized China’s judicial system as they seek to reverse a Spanish court’s ruling that 217 Taiwanese suspects be deported to China.

The human rights situation in China has drawn condemnation from around the globe and the international pressure has caused some nations to become more cautious over decisions to deport people to China, international law specialist Raymond Sung (宋承恩) said.

Non-governmental organization (NGO) the Spanish Association for Human Rights raised concern over the Spanish court’s decision in December last year to deport 219 Taiwanese arrested a year earlier over alleged involvement in telecom fraud that affected Chinese citizens.

In May, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights responded to an urgent appeal filed by the association in a statement calling on the Spanish authorities to review its order and suspend the deportations.

About a week before the office acted, the Spanish government deported two of the Taiwanese to China, prompting a protest from Taipei against Madrid for failing to observe the principles of nationality, proportionality and humanity.

The Spanish Ministry of Justice said the suspects “had Chinese nationality,” according to a BBC report.

Taiwan lost the legal battle over jurisdiction, as it had in previous cases, with the deportations carried out in deference to Beijing’s claim that it has sovereignty over Taiwan and those affected by the alleged crimes being mostly in China.

However, the case’s progress is a possible leverage point to alter such practice.

The suspects’ lawyers have lodged constitutional litigation against the Spanish court’s ruling and have submitted applications to the Spanish Office of Asylum and Refuge for the 217 remaining Taiwanese to be granted asylum, Taiwanese NGOs have said.

The moves have restrained Spain from deporting the detainees, said Covenants Watch chief executive officer Yibee Huang (黃怡碧), who along with Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎) last month discussed the case with the suspects’ lawyers.

Huang said the linchpin of the defense’s argument is that if they are deported to China, they might face an unfair trial, as China’s legal proceedings are not up to par.

According to the lawyers, Taiwanese standing trial in China are disadvantaged compared with Chinese citizens, Huang said, adding that central to their argument is that Spain should observe non-refoulement, a principle that prohibits the transfer of people to a place where they would face a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

If non-refoulement were to be adopted by the Spanish Constitutional Court, it would require authorities there to assess the reliability of diplomatic assurance — that the transferees will be treated in accordance with international standards — that China has provided to the court in the deportation suit, Huang said.

Huang said that hopefully the Mainland Affairs Council would gain a better understanding of the treatment Taiwanese face in custody in China.

This would help the detainees in Spain and their lawyers with their defense against the deportation order, she said.