Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Philippines Deportation Row Ramifies

Last week the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China. The ensuing spat has not been pretty.

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.

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.
We will now see how well channels between China and Taiwan for the repatriation of criminals and those accused of crimes work.

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...

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.''

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.

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.

Such a shift might be unavoidable despite some potential negative effects, including increased operating costs and management difficulties, the federation said.
The China Post reported today that the gov't was now imposing a go-slow on applications for Filipinos to work in Taiwan.

“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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Why did Manila deport the suspects to China? The Taipei Times observed in an editorial:

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.

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.

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:

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.

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 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.

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.
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:
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.

“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.
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.

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.

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.
Scary, eh?

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.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

helpful to see entire Manila news story: unbelievable!

24 Chinese fugitives deported
By D.J. Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Feb. 2

MANILA -- On the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Philippines sent China a peculiar gift—two dozens of its “most wanted” fugitives.

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.

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.

Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado confirmed that there was a “special flight” with the Chinese suspects aboard, but said he could not give more details.

“We knew there was special flight, and we were just there to observe the process,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The suspects, 19 of whom were male, were reportedly part of a criminal syndicate operating in Southeast Asia with the Philippines as their base of operations.

The 24 had been imprisoned at the detention center of the Bureau of Immigration in Taguig City while awaiting their deportation. It was not immediately clear when and where the arrests took place or whether they had been arrested together.

The deportees were mostly young, between 18 and 24 years old, and were facing charges of kidnapping, illegal drug manufacturing and large-scale computer fraud.

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.

ORWELL 1984?

Robert R. said...

“considering that ... all the accomplices are Chinese"

Well, that's exactly what Ma's been saying.... EVERYONE's Chinese.

Of course, one of the fun parts of having the same name for ethnic & national labels.

Okami said...

I don't know who to root for in this one except for injuries.

On one hand you have the Philippine govt who was pissed about the treatment of the OFW in Taiwan when the recession hit and Taiwan's attitude towards them. Then you have the fact that this is dealing with the accusation of rat bastards who used to/still do plague our cellphones in Taiwan. I'm not saying they're guilty, just saying I have less sympathy than I should for their plight despite what should be a presumption of innocence on my part.

With Taiwan, I don't really understand their dog in this fight unless these guys are really connected which I assume to be the case. I mean anyone with half a clue knows that China is basically going to cajole and bully to get whatever they want and they very much consider the people of Taiwan to be Chinese in the scheme of things. It's not like they can really do much to the Philippines except through OFW who are already being replaced by other nationalities. It's also not like they are some shining beacon on how to treat foreigners themselves.

It's like watching a cat fight and hoping one of them rips the top off the other.

Dixteel said...

This really pissed me off. I don't care, a lot of heads have to roll for this.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but this partly is the result of maintaining the 'status quo.'
Does anyone else think this continued support for the SQ will only make things worse for Twn?

Jade said...

Unfortunately, most Taiwanese don't think things like this will happen to them. Imagine the following scenario: You are arrested in Manila or any country as a tourist for a mistaken identity. What do you think it's going to happen. The status quo is not going to protect you anymore. I just hope that all Taiwanese think about it. We are not Chinese we are Taiwanese.

blobOfNeurons said...

I'm going to assume that the 24 fugitives are guilty. Their supposed crimes are not political so I assume that the accusations weren't trumped up.

If what I have assumed is true, this may be a good thing. For one, it takes the heat off of Taiwan. If the Taiwanese had been deported to Taiwan as they should have, China obviously would have started pressuring Taiwan to extradite them (I mean, relocate them to a different part of China). If not handed over, China will claim that Taiwan is protecting fugitives. If handed over, the families will be mad at the government.

But the way things are, China has what it wants without Taiwan having to bend over, the families are angry at the Philippines and China not Taiwan, and Taiwan has new leverage in future political negotiations.

Anonymous said...

What consequences will this have? Worse Relationships between Taiwan and the Philippines, better Relationships between Taiwan and China of course...

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, I'm kinda taking the view that the Philippines deportation of the suspects is sensible. Criminals are deported internationally all the time. But they didn't have to call everyone involved Chinese. That's a serious error and a flagrant slap at Taiwan.

Dixteel said...


Deportation happens all the time, but usually suspects are deported to their home country under these circumstances. This is the first time that Taiwanese suspects are deported to a 3rd country.

However, Philippine cannot be blamed. It simply works under the current policy of Ma government and China. Logically, Ma should not be angry and should not retaliate at all because Philippine simply did a common sense thing based on Ma's policy.

The main problem, IMO, is not China or Philippine, but Taiwan itself. When Taiwan keeps claiming that it is part of China or China etc, this is bound to happen. Philippine will not be the last that slaps Taiwan and feels surprised by Taiwan's anger/retaliation afterward.

Nick said...

There goes my chance of finding a cool covers band to play at my birthday party.

Anonymous said...

Why should Taiwan punish the poor maids /OFW ?

This kind of mentality will only make Philippine people hate Taiwanese in Manila.

The TECO staff in Manila treats Phillipine visa applicants so badly that people hated them and I hope this crazy hysterical Taiwan government move against the OFW's will not make Taiwanese a target in Manila.


Chuck West said...

Maybe it's a good thing that the newspaper did not mention any of the suspects as being Taiwanese. It's not like these guys are doctors or scientists. These are alleged scam artists. Would it really benefit Taiwan to let the world to know that these are in fact Taiwanese fugitives rather than Chinese fugitives?

In light of the recent scandals involving Chinese business, world perception of China is probably at a low point. I would think that it would serve Taiwan's best interests to maintain this negative sentiment.

les said...

While I understand the idea, and wouldn't like to see China Airlines change it's name for the same reason I have a problem with silence in this case.

Then they came for the phone scammers and I didn't speak out, because I'm not a phone scammer...

You let other countries decide the nationality of your citizens and it will lead to bigger problems. Want to see pro-Tibet demonstrators 'repatriated' to the PRC because Beijing demanded it? Human rights activists?

Nathan W. Novak (李漢聲) said...


I don't think that the Philippines seriously meant to slap Taiwan in the face by calling the Taiwanese suspects Chinese. I think they are merely trying to find some sort of term that would satisfy both governments. Arguably, the Ma Ying-jeou administration, which calls itself "Chinese," would have a problem with calling Taiwanese suspects Taiwanese. In the imaginary world of KMT politics, Taiwan is China and China is "the mainland" or the "other side." I've been watching this as well, and one part of me is completely miffed as to why the Ma administration doesn't do any lashing at the PRC (or whatever they wish to call it; I call it China), and the other part of me knows why they do not: with enemies like "the mainland," who needs friends?--the KMT "logic." The KMT doesn't have a grasp of reality, and therefore confuses all other observers: if you continue to call yourself a woman (or a cat, or an elephant, or whatever) and act like one and do your utmost (albeit rather unconvincingly) to look like one, you'll confuse the hell out of people on the street, too. But in your own mind, you're whatever you want to be (no matter how insane you appear to observers). If Taiwan--or, rather, the government of Taiwan--calls itself China and insists that it is China, what is the Philippine government supposed to say: "No, sorry, you senile fools, you are not China"? The real problem is the KMT's--this we should all know by now--and not the Philippines', and not the PRC's. (The PRC has enough issues of its own.) This will end up serving to make cross-Strait relations even stronger, as the KMT will bend over backwards to convince the PRC to release Taiwanese suspects, and the PRC will play up the "benevolent big brother" card; meanwhile, it will have succeeded in undermining Taiwan's relations with yet another neighbor. Advantage: China (or "the mainland" or "the other side"). And the KMT is too dumb to stop (or too willing to allow, perhaps even too willing to help) this to happen.

Michael Turton said...

Oh for sure to the continuing undermining of our diplomatic standing. Taiwanese set great store by our standing in the world. I expect the continuing decline to have severe repercussions for 2012.

eunice87286 said...

We are traveling to Taiwan next week (for tourism purposes). We're Filipinos. I'd like to know what the general sentiments of Taiwanese people towards this issues. Would we encounter problems let's say at the airport and also with the way the locals would treat us. Thanks for any information you could give me.

TicoExpat said...

I agree that the core problem is Chinese = national first, race same.Yes, it is quite worrisome to see the consequences of this corolary, but it is a logical conclusion in view of current foreign relations.

My two cents:

Could it be that the Filipinos are also in a bad position with China after the hostage fiasco? They need to thread very carefully after that...

What happened to the previous 18 scammers from last year? What if they were released with only a slap? What if some of them are in the new 18 group? Many Taiwanese have legal problems abroad and then hide in the island, no one can touch them.

Does Taiwan have any extradition treaties with other nations? Have those been respected? Why is this always a problematic issue with everybody involved with Taiwanese, anyhow?

After the treatment of Filipino workers, and recent custody cases, there is a lot of ill will towards Taiwan in there.

Michael Turton said...

Eunice, I doubt you'll have any problems. Please visit. There have been no incidents towards Filipinos. Everyone is disgusted with the government here and there, not with ordinary people.


eunice87286 said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for your quick response. We are looking forward and is quite excited with this trip until this issue suddenly hit. We plan to tour around Taipei on our own so we'll be asking locals for help in directions. We're praying though that this trip will be filled with good memories especially since Taiwanese like Filipinos are hospitable and friendly.

Michael Turton said...

Eunice, if you need any help just send me an email. I live in Taichung, so if you're in the area, let me know.


eunice87286 said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for the generous offer. I'll drop you a mail if ever I'm in your area. I really appreciate that.
If you ever need any info about Manila, Philippines, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I'm bound to leave for Taiwan on the 24th of this month. Our documents were submitted to the Taiwan Embassy but was given back to our agency because we don't have our SSS id yet. It affects a lot of workers for we all know how slow is the process for applying for SSS id here in the
Philippines. We hope and continously pray that Taiwan Embassy will honor our plead.

Anonymous said...

yes, beware of your government in Taiwan, PROC may eat you all if you fail to protect Taiwan......

Anonymous said...

Im an average filipino. I dont really care if Taiwan is pissed or not. Most of us dont give a damn. I honestly dont treat chinese and taiwanese any different. To me they are both chinese. Period.

Anonymous said...

@the last Filipino commenter, your comment is just plain stupid. Chinese and Taiwanese are different and if you don't know the difference then you're ignorant.
It's like calling you mexican because you're(we're) brown.

I am also a Filipino and I have Taiwanese friends and I know what they're feelings are with regards to this issue.

With regards to the deportation, I do not know if it's right or wrong, I think this is the best time for the 3 parties to enact a policy which will satisfy all, so this issue will not happen in the future. I think China(mainland) has an extradition treaty with the Philippines, Taiwan and Philippines should also sit down and make such similar arrangements.