Jerome A. Cohen and Yu-Jie Chen: Beijing and Taipei Should End Their Tug of War Over Repatriation of Criminal Suspects

Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

Originally featured in the South China Morning Post. 

Over Taiwan’s protests, China has since April persuaded several countries that do not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan – including Kenya, Malaysia and Cambodia – to send Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecommunications fraud to China rather than Taiwan for prosecution. This is one of Beijing’s many recent tactics designed to press Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, to continue the policy of her predecessor by adopting the so-called “1992 consensus”, a term that in Beijing’s view confirms that Taiwan is part of China.

While Tsai’s inauguration speech stated as “historical fact” that “various joint acknowledgements and understandings” had been reached in 1992 between negotiators from China and Taiwan, her carefully crafted message did not meet Beijing’s rigid demand. China has resorted to many noticeable manoeuvres since Tsai’s election: “restoring” diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s former ally Gambia;significantly reducing the number of Chinese tourist groups to Taiwan; suspending many official and semi-official cross-strait activities; and, most recently, preventing the International Civil Aviation Organisation from inviting Taiwan to this year’s conference, as the organisation did for its last conference.

Four months into her presidency, Tsai now has a clear view of the challenges of managing relations with China. Externally, she is confronted by a Beijing that rejects flexibility in dealing with the “one China” formula. Internally, she needs to meet the expectation of voters that her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party will do a better job than the previous Kuomintang government in maintaining Taiwan’s de facto independence and safeguarding its vibrant democracy from China’s interference. Indeed, increasingly nationalistic domestic voices are seeking to assert Taiwanese sovereignty and identity at the cost of worsening contacts with an obviously impatient China.

The recent repatriation episodes in third countries substantially expand Beijing’s new suspension of cooperation with Taipei. This is a sharp departure from its practice since 2011 of collaborating with Taiwanese law enforcement. During that period, in accordance with the spirit of a groundbreaking 2009 accord – the Cross-Strait Agreement on Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance – Chinese police worked shoulder to shoulder with Taiwanese police in third countries, not only exchanging information but also helping local law enforcement to arrest Chinese and Taiwanese suspected of colluding in telecom fraud schemes affecting both China and Taiwan. In a friendly exercise of discretion, Chinese police joined in sending Taiwanese nationals directly to the island while returning Chinese nationals to the mainland. To the great satisfaction of Taiwan’s previous president, Ma Ying-jeou, a large number of Taiwanese suspects were sent home for prosecution.

You can read the entire article here.