Fraud suspects ‘apologize’ amid China-Taiwan deportation row

Story highlights

Taiwanese fraud suspects appear in Chinese media

They were sent to China from Kenya despite protests by Taiwanese officials

CNN  — 

There’s a new twist in the dust-up involving Taiwan, China and Kenya over deportations of fraud suspects to the mainland.

Two of the Taiwanese citizens have now appeared in interviews with Chinese state-run media, offering apologies for their acts and pleading for Chinese authorities to go easy on them.

“I knew from the start it is wrong to trick people in the Mainland,” Chinese state-run news service Xinhua quoted one of the men, identified only by his surname of Chien, as saying. “It’s wicked and there will be retribution. I want to sincerely apologize to the Mainland victims. I am willing to be punished. I wish I could get leniency.”

READ: Taiwan accuses China of ‘extrajudicial abduction’ of workers in Kenya

State broadcaster China Central Television showed what it said were written confessions in Chinese.

CNN cannot independently verify these reports, and it is unclear whether the men made their comments under duress.

The two men are reportedly among 45 Taiwanese citizens forcibly deported to China by Kenya despite protests from Taiwan’s government, which said the transfers were a “gross violation of basic human rights.”

READ: Kenya defends deportation

Kenya does not recognize Taiwan – officially the Republic of China – nor does it maintain diplomatic relations with the island. China has praised Kenya for its decision to send the suspects to the mainland.

Kenyan authorities had accused the men of a complex phone and internet fraud scheme, but the Taiwanese were acquitted.

When they went to a Nairobi police station to pick up their passports, “they were detained by the police for no reason,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

READ: Can China get away with abducting people overseas?

A spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry said the Taiwanese were deported for being in the country illegally.

Xinhua cited Chien as saying he had joined the fraud ring on October 2014. Xinhau said he described a scheme in which fraudsters posed as law enforcement officials on the phone and tried to trick mainland residents into transferring money to resolve the issue.

The other suspect, only identified as Hsu, said he flew to Kenya in 2014 after being recruited to join the fraud ring.

READ: ‘Missing’ bookseller returns to Hong Kong

“I am familiar with telecommunications fraud, so they found me and let me help this ‘startup,’” Xinhua quoted Hsu as saying.

In a related incident, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported Friday that 20 Taiwanese fraud suspects that had faced similar deportation to China from Malaysia had been sent to Taiwan and freed.

CNN’s Chieu Luu and Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.