Taipei, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Wednesday expressed its "severe concern" and protested to the Philippines after Manila deported 78 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China on Wednesday morning, despite urgings from Taipei not to.
In a statement, the ministry said that since the suspects were arrested in January, Taiwan had repeatedly called on the Philippines to respect their wishes and honor the nationality principle by deporting them back to Taiwan to avoid undermining bilateral ties.
Under strong pressure from Beijing, however, Manila ultimately decided to deport the Taiwanese nationals to the other side of the Taiwan Strait.
The ministry has asked Taiwan's representative office in Manila to express the country's grave concern and lodge a strong protest over the decision.
The ministry, meanwhile, urged Taiwanese citizens to not engage in illicit activates overseas, including telecommunications fraud, to avoid facing prosecution and damaging the nation's image.
A source close to the matter told CNA that the 78 suspects were among 158 individuals arrested in the Philippines on Jan. 13 for their alleged involvement in fraudulent telecom activities.
Of the 158, 73 were found to be Chinese nationals, who have already been sent back to China. The 78 Taiwanese had been detained by Philippine authorities since January.
The group of Taiwanese suspects boarded a Chinese airliner at 6 a.m. Wednesday escorted by more than 100 Chinese police officers. The flight is scheduled to arrive in Tianjin (??) around noon, the source said.
The source said the ministry will summon the Philippines' top envoy to Taiwan after the conclusion of the ongoing Tomb-Sweeping Day vacation to protest Manila's action.
A previous fraud case in 2011 involving Taiwanese nationals in the Philippines triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries after Manila deported 14 Taiwanese to China on Feb. 2, 2011.
Taipei protested the action and asked Manila to apologize for what Taiwan said was a lack of respect for its jurisdiction in the case.
The month-long controversy ended only after then Philippines President Benigno Aquino III twice sent a special envoy to Taipei to explain his government's stance and removed top immigration officials.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel