BEIJING (AP) — Malaysia deported 74 telecom fraud suspects — including 21 from Taiwan — to China on Tuesday, in the latest instance of Southeast Asian countries deferring to China's claim to sovereignty over the self-governing island.
The suspects arrived in the central city of Wuhan on Tuesday night on a chartered plane escorted by police, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
China regards Taiwan as a part of its territory and pressures its allies and smaller neighbors to abide by that position. Taiwan says it should be allowed to prosecute its nationals suspected of committing crimes abroad, but its lack of diplomatic relations with most countries complicates such legal arguments.
Taiwan's Central News Agency said Taiwanese officials protested the deportations to Malaysia, saying they "hurt the longstanding friendship" between the two sides.
"We are demanding that China send the Taiwanese suspects back to Taiwan, where they will face justice," the Taiwanese foreign ministry said, according to the agency.
Cambodia and Kenya are among the countries that have recently sent dozens of Taiwanese suspects to mainland China over Taiwan's objections.
China contends that Taiwan gives light treatment to accused swindlers, encouraging others to try their luck at online scams that can potentially lead to massive payouts.
The 74 suspects are accused of carrying out more than 500 fraud cases over the phone and internet involving more than $8 million, according to Xinhua.