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03 Dec 2021

China calls it ‘nonsense', Taiwan expresses concern, we’re still waiting for Spain to explain

Our just-released investigation exposing how China hunts Taiwanese nationals using extradition to assert its imagined sovereignty over the East Asian democracy prompted a response from both governments and was covered by major international media outlets including the BBC, Al Jazeera and AFP as well as many Chinese-language news sites.

China’s actions in pressuring third countries to extradite or deport Taiwanese to China contravenes an agreement it made with Taiwan in 2009, in which both sides agreed to send suspects from the other side back to their own territories -- the Cross-Strait Agreement on Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement.

Not to mention that these forced transfers put Taiwanese nationals at risk of severe human rights abuses in China, such as lack of access to a fair trial, torture and forced confessions.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Liberty Times that Taiwan and China are separate countries so their citizens caught up in criminal cases in third countries should be returned to Taiwan not China to face trial. The Mainland Affairs Council, the main body in Taiwan dealing with cross strait issues, said the extraditions and deportations were China’s attempt to "show its sovereignty over Taiwan".

At China’s regular foreign press briefing, the spokesperson called our report “pure nonsense”.

Of all the countries that have sent Taiwanese nationals to China, Spain has sent the most—a total of 219 despite the fact that human rights abuses in China’s legal system are widespread and systematic and other courts in the European Union have rejected extraditions to China based on human rights concerns.

In the interests of accountability, Safeguard Defenders sent an open letter to Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (copied below), to request their comments on our report and to elicit a promise to reject all extradition and deportation requests from China for Taiwanese nationals in respect of the 2009 agreement between the two governments.

Their response came back swiftly.

Thank you very much for your email. We greatly appreciate your interest in the matter, but we do not comment. 

We're still waiting for Spain to explain. 

For transparency, the letter we sent is copied below.

Attention: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC)

new report by Safeguard Defenders this week on how China hunts Taiwanese nationals through extradition and forced deportation to assert its imagined sovereignty over Taiwan has prompted both Beijing and Taipei to respond and has been widely covered in the international media, including BBC, Al-Jazeera, and newswire AFP, reprinted around the world, with many singling out Spain for being the worst offender.

Since Spain holds the record for extraditing Taiwanese national to China, in contravention of the Cross-Strait Agreement on Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement agreed between Beijing & Taipei, and also because of severe human rights concerns for any extradition to China we respectfully request a response from MAEUC on this issue and have several questions as below:

1)      May we please get MAEUEC’s comment on Spain’s extradition of hundreds of Taiwanese nationals to China in the light of our report?

2)      Why did Spain not respect the Cross-Strait Agreement on Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement when extraditing Taiwanese nationals?

3)      China is well-known to ignore and violate legal- and diplomatic agreements, and as Spain has assisted and rewarded China for doing so, how does that reflect on Spain?

4)      Can Madrid now assure the international community that it will put a stop to all future extraditions to China of Taiwanese nationals, in line with the above mentioned treaty that Beijing is bound by?

Spain is the only developed country, and only fully democratic nation that has sent Taiwanese citizens to the PRC. Out of over 600 cases identified between 2016 and 2019, Spain is responsible for more than a third.

Responses to our report: China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Wednesday dismissed the report as "pure nonsense." Taiwan’s foreign ministry said as that it per routine always informs countries, such as Spain, that Taiwanese people involved in the case should be repatriated to Taiwan, not to China. Taiwan government spokesperson also notes that since Spain’s extradition, no other country has carried out this practice anymore.

Examples of other EU nations rejecting China’s extradition requests: The Czech Supreme court, which unlike in Spain, denied extradition of Taiwanese citizens to China, noting that “extraditing Taiwanese citizens to mainland China is a politically sensitive issue, as it can be used by the Chinese government as proof of sovereignty over the entire territory, including Taiwan.”

Yours sincerely,

Safeguard Defenders