First, in plain news, Taiwan has formally requested that its people be handed back.
According to the statement, the ministry urged China to repatriate the 14 fraud suspects and transfer evidence or documents detailing their criminal acts as soon as possible under the premises of promoting peaceful development of bilateral ties, maintaining orderly cross-strait engagement and enhancing the interests of the people on both sides.We will now see how well channels between China and Taiwan for the repatriation of criminals and those accused of crimes work.
The MOJ also asked China to inform it of the suspects' criminal acts and to protect their basic judicial rights, as well as arrange for Taiwanese officials or family members to visit the suspects prior to repatriation.
In addition, the ministry pushed China to respond to its requests or start negotiations for a solution as soon as possible so that the suspects can be brought back to Taiwan as quickly as possible.
The ramifications of this affair are rapidly expanding. First, consequences for ties between Taipei and Manila appear to be severe. The Philippines had been hoping for increased investment and improved ties, but it looks like Manila has temporarily spiked any hope of that. Not only has Taiwan recalled its representative to the Philippines, it also appears to be taking action against Filipino workers here in Taiwan. This has caused labor recruiters in the Philippines to ask the government to do something...
The Taiwan government said it would not revoke scholarships of Filipino nationals studying in Taiwan and that tightened screening would not affect laborers already in Taiwan. Taiwan also scrapped a plan for visa-free travel for Philippines citizens holding visas for travel to Europe, the US, Japan and other advanced countries. It should be noted that the Philippines not only deported the 14 Taiwanese but also refused to let the Taiwan representative see them before they were deported, a needless slap at Taiwan. At present there is no probe in the Philippines of the decision to deport the 14 Taiwanese.
But Taiwan is threatening to stop hiring workers from the Philippines due to the row.
Taipei said Monday it would tighten controls on Philippine workers after last week's deportation to China of 24 suspected members of a telephone fraud ring, including 14 from Taiwan.
On Tuesday, Labor Affairs Minister Wang Ju-hsuan said, ''If there is no goodwill response, we will take harsher measures and do not rule out freezing the import of Filipino workers.''
One interesting nit -- the Philippines articles said there were 33,000 OFWs in Taiwan; the Liberty Times and other papers reported 77,000. The CNA has a round up of newspaper editorials here.
One move Taiwan authorities could make to show their displeasure is to deport all the illegal Philippine OFWs, which local authorities must certainly be aware of. But they obviously won't do that because local businesses and farmers would scream.
As a result of the controversy, local firms, expecting government action, are moving to recruit workers from other countries.
According to the Taipei-based Chinese National Federation of Industries, some local companies have decided to import workers from those two countries [Indonesia and Thailand] rather than from the Philippines, which recently angered Taiwan by deporting 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China Feb. 2 along with 10 Chinese accomplices.The China Post reported today that the gov't was now imposing a go-slow on applications for Filipinos to work in Taiwan.
Such a shift might be unavoidable despite some potential negative effects, including increased operating costs and management difficulties, the federation said.
According to this Philippine paper, it was the sixth time in 17 years Taipei had frozen labor applications from a source country and the second time it had done that to the Philippines.
“Starting today, we are implementing a stricter screening of applications for hiring new Filipino workers,” said Council of Labor Affairs Minister Wang Ju-hsuan.
She said it would now take four months to screen applications for importing Filipino workers, compared with the maximum of 12 days previously required.
A recent commentary in the Taipei Times, however, shifted some of the blame to the problems to Taiwan's diplomatic corps, which treats Manila as a second-class state. Why, it asks, didn't this massive fraud case get some treatment in the media prior to this event? Why is cooperation between Taipei and Manila so poor? Well...
Not only that, the article points out that many different Taiwan offices operate in the Philippines but coordination among them is poor. This neglect of the Philippines no doubt in part reflects the rampant ethnic chauvinism locals of all political stripes display for people of darker skin color. And if you treat people like crap, you shouldn't be surprised when your contempt is returned.
Not enough weight is given to the relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines. Although the Philippines is only about one hour away by airplane and so should be a very important neighbor, a look at the political situation in Taiwan shows that because Manila is not a regional heavyweight in terms of political and economic power, it does not carry much political clout.
The result is that Taiwan’s relationship with the Philippines does not receive special attention. If an urgent or unexpected situation that must be handled through diplomatic channels occurs in the relationship between the two countries, chances are that the results will be limited, in particular if the “obstacles” posed by the cross-strait relationship are taken into consideration.
Why did Manila deport the suspects to China? The Taipei Times observed in an editorial:
The Philippines adheres to Beijing's One China policy. This is likely a response to China's growing might, but it may also stem from the desire that Manila's own claims to areas such as northeastern Sabah State in Malaysia and to some South China Sea islands be recognized. Manila also pointed out that the suspects had outstanding warrants in China, which it was bound to honor. There was, however, no need to call them all "Chinese" when they clearly weren't.
The first incident was the deportation of 14 Taiwanese suspected of fraud from the Philippines to China. Although Taiwan’s representative office in the Philippines repeatedly demanded the 14 be sent to Taiwan, and although it secured writs of habeas corpus from the Court of Appeals of the Philippines to prevent the deportation to China, Manila ignored Taipei’s demands. After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a strong protest, top Philippine officials issued a statement expressing their deep regret — but not an apology — on Monday.
The statement said that Philippine authorities had decided to deport the suspects to China “considering that all the victims are Chinese, all the accomplices are Chinese and the results can be best settled in China.”
This statement deals a double blow to Taiwan. Manila had no intention of returning the suspects to Taiwan because it fears China. This was the result the Philippines weighing the respective power of China and Taiwan and acting in accordance with its own best interests. However, Philippine officials also ignored the decision of their own courts, forcing their judiciary to bow before China’s political might. This will not increase Taiwan’s respect for the Philippines.
Some of the ramifications of the Philippines' statement that all involved "are Chinese" were noted in another Taipei Times editorial, pointing out that Beijing's version of extraordinary rendition -- a dangerous and evil precedent set by the United States -- has potential consequences for Taiwan:
Another correction -- some news reports, including one from Xinhua, said that Taiwan had participated in the investigation. However, a senior diplomatic official denied this yesterday:
The case of Huseyin Celil, a Uighur and Canadian citizen, is a case in point. Celil, who grew up in China and obtained political asylum in Canada in 2001, was arrested by Uzbek authorities while visiting his wife’s family in 2006, and then deported to China, where he was sentenced to life in prison for “separating China and ... organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups.”
Given all this, it is not impossible that, at some point, Taiwanese who are active in supporting Taiwanese independence — seeking to “separate China,” as Celil allegedly did — could be arrested somewhere and deported to China, where the judicial system, which serves the Chinese Communist Party more than it does the state, would be heavily stacked against them.
Not only could Taiwanese who did not break any law other than those conjured up by the authoritarian regime in Beijing face the threat of arrest and deportation within the region, but once deported they would be swallowed whole by a system that time and again has shown its willingness to rely on the harshest of interrogation techniques to break inmates and extract whatever “confession” is sought by state prosecutors.
The jurisdiction principle of nationality that Taiwan claimed is only one of many theories of jurisdiction in international law, as authorities can also claim jurisdiction based on the nationality of the victims, the country in which the crime took place, or mutual agreements to combat serious crime, Lee said.Taiwanese officials called on Manila to take Taiwan seriously, pointing out that they had not worked through diplomatic channels and had failed to inform Taiwan of meetings:
Taiwan did not have a say in the case because it did not participate in the investigation, which was jointly carried out by China and the Philippines, Lee said.
However, Lee cited a similar case late last year in which none of the 18 Taiwanese suspects arrested Dec. 22 were deported to China because the case was a cooperative effort between the police authorities of Taiwan and the Philippines.
The fact that the Philippines did not offer Taiwan direct communications channels to relevant government agencies, such as the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice, throughout the incident was “unacceptable,” Yang said.Really, there appear to be two controversies -- one for the domestic audience over the deportation of the 14 Taiwanese to China, and one between professional diplomats over Manila's treatment of Taipei's officials in the Philippines. Punishment should be meted out to Manila, and then Taiwan should embrace the Philippines offer to establish a mechanism for handling issues like this.
“All we could do was to communicate through the MECO, and that was not enough,” he said.
Yang said Philippine authorities refused to grant Taiwanese officials access to a meeting on Tuesday last week to discuss the deportation issue, and failed to inform the Taiwanese side of the results of another closed-door meeting until the afternoon of Wednesday last week, when the Taiwanese suspects had already been deported.
Just to get a sense of how the issue was presented in the Philippines, here is a report from a local paper there. There's no mention of Taiwan in it:
Twenty-four young Chinese fugitives who had been hiding in the country were deported to China after they were arrested by Philippine authorities, officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport said Wednesday.Scary, eh?
The foreigners, who were wanted on charges ranging from large-scale computer fraud to kidnapping, were deported to Beijing aboard an early-morning chartered Air China flight, immigration bureau officers at the NAIA said.
The fugitives reportedly had outstanding warrants of arrest in China and were apprehended in the Philippines by local law enforcers, including immigration agents, in coordination with the Chinese government.
Immigration sources said they had victimized big banking institutions in China and pilfered dollar remittances through hacking.
The Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao, accompanied by the Chinese military and police attaches, reportedly saw off the suspects as they boarded the aircraft back to China.
What this incident shows is not so much how a rising China is gobsmacking Taiwan's diplomacy -- to paraphrase Harry Truman, when nations are given a choice between an island pretending to be China and the real China, they will always opt for the real one -- but actually how Taiwan's diplomacy is failing Taiwan. Let's hope that Taiwan focuses on a positive response -- invigorating its own diplomacy -- rather than on smacking down Manila. Unfortunately independent diplomacy is not a priority of the current pro-China administration in Taipei.
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