By N. Peter Kramer
At a time when people in Hong Kong are showing very strong opposition to an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens and even foreigners to be sentenced under China’s impenetrable judicial system, Spain extradites 94 Taiwan nationals to China.
In April, the EU raised the issue of China’s inhuman treatment of detainees during its annual human rights dialogue with China. Spain’s decision to extradite 94 Taiwan nationals to China is clearly at odds with the EU’s view of the deteriorating human rights situation in China. Bitter is also that Spain’s extradition comes in the same period as the 30th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square massacre, a reminder of the devastation that paranoid authoritarianism can inflict on its people.
The story begins in December 2016, when a huge telecom scam targeting Chinese citizens was unveiled by Spanish authorities and 269 suspects were arrested, among them 219 Taiwanese nationals. In May 2018, Spain extradited two of these to face trial: not in their homecountry Taiwan, but in China.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights immediately issued a statement urging the Spanish government to halt the extradition process, with UN human rights experts pointing out Spain’s international commitment to avoid extraditions to any State where there is a well-founded likelihood of torture and the risk of severe sanctions including capital punishment.
Moreover, they said, some of the individuals to be extradited may have been victims of human trafficking: several victims stated they had been taken to Spain on the understanding that they would work as tour guides, before being forced to work making fraudulent calls. These claims, said the experts, did not appear to have been adequately investigated by the Spanish authorities, nor considered prior to the extradition decision.
Despite this plea, on June 6, Spanish authorities extradited a further 94 Taiwan nationals to China. The Chinese media used the opportunity to publish that Spain, an EU memberstate, clearly has confidence in the Chinese judicial system.
But remarkable is that Spain does seem to have misgivings about the Chinese justice system, as suggested by Madrid’s statement of concern over two Canadian detainees in China, expressing hope that they would, “receive fair, transparent and impartial treatment in their respective legal processes.”
Interestingly, recently we saw the New Zealand Court of Appeals quash the extradition of the Korean-born Kyung Yup Kim on humanitarian grounds, suggesting very real concerns over China’s judicial system and an alternative way of dealing with extradition requests.