Concerns over China's legal system raised against deportation

2018/11/08 12:12:24 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from Pixabay

Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Nov. 8 (CNA) Concern over China's judicial system has been raised by law experts and human rights activists in the hope of overriding a Spanish court ruling favoring China's demand to deport 217 Taiwanese crime suspects to China rather than Taiwan.

The deteriorating human rights situation in China has attracted condemnation from across the globe and the increasing international pressure has caused some countries to become more cautious with their decisions to deport any individuals to China, Raymond Sung (宋承恩), a specialist in international law, told CNA in a recent interview.

Malaysia has offered perhaps the most notable case in point when in October it defied China's demand to hand over to Beijing 11 ethnic Uighur Muslims who fled to Malaysia after a Thai jailbreak in 2017 and instead sent them to Turkey, Sung said.

The concern over the Spanish court's decision in December 2017 to deport 219 Taiwanese arrested a year earlier over their alleged involvement in telecom scams to defraud Chinese citizens was raised by the Spanish Association for Human Rights, a Madrid-based non- governmental organization.

In May, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) responded to an urgent appeal filed by the Spanish NGO in a statement calling on the Spanish authorities to review its deportation order and suspend the procedure.

"We are dismayed by the decision by the Spanish courts to deport these individuals. The ruling clearly contravenes Spain's international commitment to refrain from expelling, returning or extraditing people to any state where there are well-founded reasons to believe that they might be in danger of being subjected to torture," the statement read.

About a week before the OHCHR acted on the case, the Spanish government deported two individuals of the group to China, making it the first Western country to deport Taiwanese criminal suspects to China.

As with previous cases of Taiwanese being deported to China over the years from countries including Armenia, Kenya, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, Taipei has protested against Spain for failing to observe the principle of nationality, proportionality and humanity.

Spain's Justice Ministry has defended its decision, however, referring to the suspects held as "having Chinese nationality," according to a BBC report last year.

In this case, Taiwan again lost the legal battle over its jurisdiction as in many cases where the deportations were carried out in deference to Beijing's claim that it has sovereignty over Taiwan and the victims of the crimes were mostly in China.

How the case has unfolded in Spain, however, has been seen as a possible leverage point where Taiwan may have a shot at shifting the situation.

According to Taiwanese NGO activists, aside from the OHCHR's intervention, to stop the Spanish government from deporting the group to China, the suspects' lawyers have lodged a constitutional litigation against the court ruling and have submitted applications to the Office of Asylum and Refuge (OAR) for the granting of asylum for the 217 people.

The moves have effectively restrained Spain from deporting the 217 pretrial detainees, said Yibee Huang (黃怡碧), chief executive officer at Covenants Watch, who along with Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, had discussed the case with the suspects' lawyers in Madrid in October.

Huang said that the linchpin of the lawyers' argument is that if they are deported to China, they may be exposed to an unfair trial because China's legal proceedings are not up to par and would therefore constitute a travesty of justice.

The lawyers also argued that Taiwanese people standing trial in China are in a more disadvantageous situation than Chinese citizens, according to Huang.

Central to their argument is that non-refoulement, a principle enshrined in many international instruments that prohibits transfer of any person to a place where they would face a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, should be observed by Spain in its handling of this case, Huang said.

If the principle of non-refoulement were to be adopted by Spain's Constitutional Court, it would require the Spanish authorities to assess the reliability of diplomatic assurance -- that the transferees will be treated in accordance with international standards -- that China has provided to the court in the deportation suit, she said.

According to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the number of Taiwanese nationals deported to China after being caught abroad for alleged telecom fraud was 376 as of Oct. 30 this year, with some being given a sentence of more than 10 years.

Huang expressed hope that the MAC will get a better understanding of the treatment of Taiwanese held in custody in China to assist the pretrial detainees in Spain and their lawyers with their defense against the court's deportation order.

In response, MAC spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said that the MAC will cooperate with related government agencies in providing information to the nation's representative office in Spain that can be used to ensure the protection of the legal and basic human rights of the detainees.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Miao Tsung-han)
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