BEIJING (AP) — The Taiwanese wire fraud suspects who were deported from Kenya to China are adjusting to conditions in a Beijing detention center, said an official from the island who visited the facility Thursday.
Chen Wen-chi, who leads the Justice Ministry's department of international and cross-strait legal affairs, was given a tour of medical facilities and interview rooms in the Haidian district detention center, but she was only able to observe the suspects on security cameras.
"I saw those Taiwanese detainees today. They are in good physical condition. Please rest assured that they are all adjusting well at the detention center," Chen told a small group of reporters accompanying the delegation.
Chinese police are investigating the 45 Taiwanese over their suspected involvement in telephone scams that cheated Chinese victims out of large sums. Several have been shown on Chinese state television describing how the scammers pretended to be government officials and other authority figures to convince victims to transfer funds to them or provide personal financial details that could be used to steal money.
Taiwan's government protested the deportations out of concern that China was using the case to assert its claim to Taiwan. China said it had jurisdiction because its citizens were victimized and argued that Taiwan had not sufficiently punished past perpetrators.
Along with looking into the condition of the detainees, Chen's delegation is discussing with Chinese officials how they might cooperate in future cases. While some on Taiwan hope the 45 can return home to stand trial or serve their sentences, China appears to be determined to deal with them on its own.
Taiwan managed to convince Malaysia to send another group of suspected scammers to Taiwan rather than the mainland, but then released them on arrival for lack of evidence — sparking anger from China. On Thursday, 18 of the 20 were taken into custody after prosecutors reviewed evidence dockets forwarded by Chinese investigators.
They argued there was strong evidence of their culpability and concerns they would collude on their stories and pervert the course of justice. The two not taken into custody were ordered to stay in Taiwan.
AP journalist Johnson Lai contributed to this report from Taipei, Taiwan.