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Suspects’ return from China not an issue of sovereignty

Now that Beijing has decided to send 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects back to Taiwan, the issue of the sovereignty of our country in handling their case is being raised again. Democratic Progressive Party leaders from their chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen on down have accused the administration of selling out our sovereignty by letting the Philippines deport the suspects to the People’s Republic of China earlier this year. This time around, it is a Taipei English-language newspaper that suspected Taipei’s groveling in order to get them back for trial. This paper also expressed fears that our homeland may be made into “Taiwan, Province of China” as it was in a World Health Organization circular to its staff regarding “Chinese Taipei,” the name under which our ministers of health take part in World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva.

We pointed out in this column three months ago that the repatriation of the fourteen suspects to the mainland did not belittle our sovereignty in any way. At that time, former Vice President Annette Lu, a DPP leader who has studied law at Harvard University, and another Harvard law scholar Chen Chern-ven, who served as secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), made it clear the deportation to China, where the alleged crime took place, shouldn’t be regarded as an issue of sovereignty. On learning Beijing’s decision, Premier Wu Den-yih said the controversy surrounding the suspects being repatriated to Taiwan for trial shouldn’t be labeled as an issue of sovereignty.

It isn’t, of course. But the Taipei Times said in an editorial last Saturday that our negotiators may have made concessions to Beijing authorities in order to win the repatriation in accordance with the Agreement on Joint Crime-Fighting and Mutual Legal Assistance across the Taiwan Strait signed between the SEF and its Chinese counterpart Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). “Taiwan appears,” it pointed out, “to be entering new territory with the return of the 14 suspects. Let’s just hope it is not a territory labeled ‘Taiwan, Province of China.’”

The sister paper of the pro-independence Liberty Times is a little too suspicious. First of all, the agreement was referred to the Legislative Yuan for record, not for ratification, simply because it isn’t a formal treaty between two sovereign, independent states. As a matter of fact, the Statute Governing Relations between the People in the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area exempts ratification by the legislature of accords or arrangements signed between the two sides of the strait. In last March, Wu demanded an apology from Manila and President Ma Ying-jeou met Manuel Roxas II, a Filipino special envoy, to censure the Philippines because its officials lied openly about the deportation of the suspects to China.

The editorial claimed several legal experts believe it is “very unlikely Beijing would accept the not-guilty verdict in any trial in Taiwan and so it would be likely to demand that Taiwan agree to several conditions before repatriating the suspects.” It didn’t say what these “several conditions” are. Was the conviction of the suspects one of the conditions?

While it is true that our citizens who commit crimes abroad are only liable for prosecution in Taiwan if the offense warrants a jail term of two years or more, we cannot speak in certainties when discussing whether our prosecutors would consider the crime the suspects committed on the Chinese mainland deserving of longer sentences, although it is highly likely that they will be indicted for cheating the people on the mainland out of an estimated US$20 million, tried, convicted, and sentenced to longer than two years in prison.

Remember Quentin and Rizal Yuyutong, Filipino citizens of Chinese descent, were extradited to Taiwan, tried, convicted, and sentenced to two and three years in education for sedition, respectively, in 1970 only because the government under President Chiang Kai-shek cited the law of blood relationship (just sanguinis) as the legal basis for claiming the right to try them, although their crime was committed in the Philippines. The brothers, born in the Philippines of a male Chinese parent, automatically acquired Chinese citizenship and the application of the Republic of China’s criminal law was extended to any Chinese citizen committing a crime anywhere in the world. The return of the 14 suspects to Taiwan is another case of asserting the Republic of China’s sovereign right to try its citizens on criminal charges brought against them abroad.

(Editorial, The China Post (Taiwan))

(Asia News Network)