Taipei had urged Madrid to send suspects back to Taiwan, but court says international law increasingly accepts one-China principle
Beijing on Monday welcomed a Spanish court’s decision to grant its request for the extradition of 121 Taiwanese to the Chinese mainland, a move that has drawn criticism from Taipei.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing appreciated Spain’s firm support of its one -China principle.
Scores of Taiwanese have been arrested around the world over the past two years in connection with telecoms fraud scams targeting Chinese mainlanders. Countries including Malaysia, Cambodia and Kenya have deported Taiwanese suspects to the mainland in deference to Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has long tried to diplomatically isolate it.
The deportations have highlighted Beijing’s efforts to assert its sovereignty over the island, and the leverage it wields over smaller nations to achieve that.
The island’s foreign ministry on Sunday urged the Spanish government to send the suspects back to Taiwan. Local media reports cited a ministry spokesman as saying the European nation should observe the principles of nationality, proportionality and humanity.
In Beijing, Hua said the Spanish court’s decision on Friday was an “important outcome” of cooperation between Beijing and Spain in using extradition to crack down on crime.
The Taiwanese suspects are accused of belonging to telecom fraud gangs based in Spain that swindled people on China’s mainland out of millions of euros.
Interpol told Spain about the scam a year ago, and Spanish and Chinese authorities cooperated in an operation to track down the perpetrators.
Officials said the gangs made contact with people on China’s mainland, pretending at first they were friends or family and warning them of fraud scams. In later calls, they pretended to be police investigating the scams and convinced many of the victims to put money into bank accounts run by the gangs.
Spain’s National Court ruled there was no impediment to the extradition. Madrid has an extradition treaty with Beijing and no diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The democratic island split from the mainland after the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The suspects’ lawyers argued against extradition, saying their Taiwanese citizenship meant they could not be sent to the mainland.
The court rejected those arguments, noting that international law has increasingly accepted the one-China principle and that Taiwan does not have diplomatic relations with the European Union.
The decision can be appealed to a higher tribunal within the Spanish National Court.