Taiwan officials and lawmakers on Tuesday hit out at the forced deportation of dozens of the island's residents to mainland China, whose communist government has never ruled the island.
Eight residents of Taiwan, which has no formal diplomatic ties with the African nation, were deported to mainland China by Kenyan officials, who said they were being sent "back where they came from" after being accused of fraud. Not all had been convicted or tried.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kenyan police broke down a jail wall and used tear gas to force a second group of Taiwanese to board a plane for China, Taiwan's foreign ministry said.
"They refused to cooperate with the deportation... so the police broke down the walls, using tear gas, and then more than 10 police went in with assault rifles," foreign ministry official Chen Chun-shen told reporters in Taipei.
"Our colleague went immediately to the prison to see the detainees but faced all kinds of impediments," Chen said.
He added that three of Beijing's envoys to Kenya were present at the time. The foreign ministry said 37 Taiwan residents are in a second group scheduled for deportation on Tuesday.
Diplomatically, Kenya only recognizes the government of mainland China, and Taiwan's envoys have no diplomatic status there.
Beijing insists its diplomatic partners withdraw recognition from Taiwan, which remained under the control of the losing side in the Chinese civil war, the Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists, after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Beijing has also blocked the island from membership of international bodies, and has threatened to use force if Taiwan ever seeks formal statehood.
No diplomatic ties
"We have no diplomatic ties with Kenya, so the dispute over sovereignty affected their deportation," Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Luo Chi-cheng told reporters.
"But actually, Beijing knew perfectly well that these people were in detention, and that they were citizens of the Republic of China," Luo said, using the formal name of the old KMT regime, which Taiwan still uses.
"China basically took them into custody and took them away, which is a huge affront to our nation," he said. "I call on the government to ... demand that China release them and allow us to deal with [the allegations against them]."
KMT lawmaker Lu Yu-ling told RFA she was "extremely unhappy" about the treatment of the Taiwanese.
"We have reciprocal agreements with mainland China for the purposes of fighting crimes, and for mutual judicial assistance," Lu said. "They should have proceeded according to those agreements."
"I hope the mainland Chinese government will release these people to us as soon as possible, to face due legal process," she said.
Of the 37 due to be deported Tuesday, 15 had already been cleared of criminal activity linked to an investigation of a telecoms scam, while the remaining 22 had been arrested but not tried, Taiwan's foreign ministry said.
Taiwan Strait Tensions
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait eased in recent years under the island's KMT president Ma Ying-jeou, who backed greater economic integration with its larger rival, but close ties with China sparked fears of political interference in the island's vibrant democracy, as well as a 2014 student-led Sunflower Movement that occupied key government buildings in protest at a proposed cross-straits trade deal.
Beijing in January struck a warning note following a sweeping victory by DPP president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who takes office in May, saying her win poses "grave challenges" to peaceful ties with Beijing.
Tsai and the DPP won not just the presidency but a first-time majority in the island's parliament, ousting the KMT and relegating it to the status of opposition party for the first time in Taiwan's history.
The DPP victory was a reminder that many of Taiwan's 23 million residents identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and that there is broad political support for de facto self-rule, if not formal independence.
The Chinese Communist Party and the KMT nationalist party were bitter foes during a civil war that flared up after the defeat of Japan in World War II, and the KMT government fled to the island from Chongqing after losing to Mao Zedong's Soviet-backed communist forces.
The Taipei government sees itself as the legitimate continuation of the KMT regime that began with Sun Yat-sen's 1911 revolution and the fall of the Qing dynasty, while Beijing says Taiwan is a breakaway province that must one day be reunited with the mainland. Taiwan was governed separately from mainland China throughout the Japanese occupation (1895-1945) and since 1949, and has never formed part of communist China.
Reported by Miao Chiu-jyu for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.