SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Ninety-four people from Taiwan landed in Beijing on Friday after being deported from Spain as part of a joint operation against telecom fraud launched three years ago, the Chinese police ministry said in a statement.
The suspects were picked up in December 2016 in joint raids, dubbed “Operation Great Wall”, across Spain by Chinese and Spanish police, it said.
Spain’s handling of the case and approval of the extradition in early 2017 drew criticism from Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island that Beijing considers a breakaway province to be taken by force if necessary.
In Taipei, the foreign ministry “expressed deep concern and strong regret” over the deportation of the suspects to China, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) said.
It called on the Spanish government to “uphold the spirit of humaneness and the principles of human rights”, and to work with Taiwan in the fight against cross-border crime and to properly handle this type of case, CNA reported.
After two years of hearings, a Spanish court agreed to the extradition to China of all 237 suspects picked up in the raids. Spain has so far sent 225 suspects to China, including 218 from Taiwan, China’s Ministry of Public Security said.
Taiwanese suspected of telecom fraud have been deported to China, sometimes forcibly, from countries including Kenya, Cambodia and Armenia, according to the Taiwanese government.
Reporting by John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Paul Tait and Darren Schuettler