After their arrests for allegedly operating an internet voice call scam in Cambodia, 31 Chinese nationals, including seven from Taiwan, were set to be deported to mainland China this week against the wishes of Taiwan, officials said on Wednesday.
“There are seven Taiwanese. We don’t send [them] to Taiwan because we don’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, only with one China,” said Sok Phal, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.
Wang Dexin, head of the political section of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said China and Cambodia have “very good cooperation” on “tackling criminal activity relating to Chinese nationals in Cambodia” and on following the One-China policy, which endorses Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a renegade province of China. Taiwan’s government says the state is an independent country.
Mr. Dexin said he was unsure whether the Taiwanese suspects would later be sent to Taiwan, but that all 31 would go “to mainland China first.”
One group of 17 suspects was scheduled to leave Sihanoukville for China’s Sichuan province on Wednesday at 10 p.m., while a second group of 14 suspects was slated to leave Siem Reap for Henan province on Saturday, according to a report provided by Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the immigration department. Each group would be accompanied by 13 Chinese police officers, the report said.
Lieutenant General Heisela told the Associated Press that the group of alleged fraudsters, who were arrested in Phnom Penh last week, targeted wealthy people and civil servants in China. Their scheme was to “contact women over social media, trick them into exchanging nude or sexy photos then extort money from them by threatening to circulate the pictures online,” the Associated Press reported.
Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry last week said its representatives were trying to convince Cambodia to return the Taiwanese suspects to Taiwan rather than mainland China, Taiwan News reported.
Frances Lee, executive secretary at the Taiwanese Foreign Affairs Ministry’s foreign press liaison office, said on Wednesday that when Taiwanese people are detained in Cambodia, Taipei generally follows the same steps.
“Our government will immediately raise the request with the Cambodian government to make a distinction between Taiwanese nationals and the people from mainland China,” Ms. Lee said. “We will send our officials to meet with those Taiwanese nationals.”
Ms. Lee did not immediately respond to additional questions, which she requested be sent by email.