PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Taiwan protested after Cambodia deported 25 Taiwanese internet scam suspects to rival China in the latest snub of the self-ruled island.
The 25 Taiwanese and 14 Chinese were deported on a special plane dispatched by the Chinese government on Friday, said the chief of the Cambodian Interior Ministry's Immigration Investigation Bureau, Gen. Ouk Haiseila.
He said they were sent to China because they had committed crimes against Chinese citizens. They are accused of defrauding victims in China using phone calls made over the internet, which complicated tracing them. Cambodia also regards Taiwan to be part of China.
Although Taiwan's constitution formally decrees that it and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation, Taiwan functions like an independent country and does not acknowledge Beijing's claim of authority over it.
Rights activists and Taiwanese authorities say such deportations reflect the great influence China exercises over Cambodia through aid and investment.
The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry said it had lodged formal protests with Cambodia and expressed "deep regrets" over the deportation.
Originally Cambodia had planned to deport 35 people, but four more were arrested in raids this past week, Haiseila said.
Asked about Cambodia's action at a regular briefing Friday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying noted that"the Cambodian government had said before that it wouldl tackle the problem based on the one-China policy.
"We think highly of Cambodia's attitude toward the issue," she said. "We believe the competent authority in China will keep close contact and cooperation with the counterpart in Cambodia, in a bid to properly handle the issue and protect the lawful right and interest of the victims of telephone frauds."
China is a key ally and economic partner of impoverished Cambodia. It has provided millions of dollars in aid and investment over the past decade, agreed to write off debts and granted it tariff-free status for hundreds of items.
Kenya and Malaysia have also deported Taiwanese internet scam suspects to China despite protests by Taiwanese officials.