Taiwan condemned Armenia on Wednesday for deporting 78 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China in what it called a serious violation of international law.
According to Taiwanese authorities and media, the Armenian police confiscated the suspects’ passports, computers and mobile phones and banned them from leaving Armenia on August 26. It is not clear whether the Taiwanese visited Armenia on business or as tourists and what type of fraud they were suspected of.
The Armenian authorities have not yet confirmed the police raid or the reported deportations. A police spokesperson told the Arminfo news agency last week that the police “have no information” about the incident.
The AFP news agency reported that Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry protested at the Armenian government's actions and vowed to report the incident to international human rights organizations.
“Due process is lacking in the investigation of the case... the Armenia government has seriously violated human rights and international legal principles and precedents,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to Taiwannnews.com, Yerevan refused to issue visas to officials from a Taiwanese diplomatic mission in Moscow when they attempted to visit Armenia and discuss the plight of the 78 Taiwanese citizens last week.
Another Taiwanese government body, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), lodged a protest with Beijing after being notified of the deportations on Wednesday.
"We have repeatedly demanded the Chinese side not to deport our people to mainland China. The Chinese side's action again disregarded our call ... and further hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people," it said in a statement cited by AFP.
The MAC said it will continue negotiating with China to secure the suspects' return to Taiwan to face trial.
Armenia's reported actions are the latest in a series of deportations of Taiwanese to China, with Taipei accusing Beijing of "abducting" citizens from countries that do not recognize the Taiwanese government. Amnesty International has said Taiwanese face potential "human rights violations" if sent to the mainland.
Beijing says that Taiwanese fraud suspects should face trial in China because their telephone fraud crimes largely target mainland Chinese. It insists that self-ruling Taiwan is part of its territory, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
Successive Armenian governments have unequivocally recognized Chinese sovereignty over the de facto independent island. A joint statement adopted by the Armenian and Chinese presidents in Beijing last year made clear that Yerevan will continue to oppose Taiwan’s independence, avoid any “official contact” with the island and back “all Chinese government efforts to unite the country.”
The statement also called for a further strengthening of the already cordial ties between Armenia and China.
China is Armenia’s second largest trading partner, having accounted for 8 percent of the South Caucasus state’s foreign trade in the first half of this year.