BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Wednesday thanked Kenya for deporting five people from Taiwan to the mainland as part of a crackdown on telecoms fraud, and urged Taiwan to support the action after its foreign ministry protested.
A Kenyan court acquitted the five people from Taiwan, which China views as a wayward province, as well as 35 Chinese citizens, last Friday after the prosecution failed to prove a cyber-fraud case against them.
A magistrate said the five should be repatriated to their place of origin, Taiwan, but on Monday, the Kenyan government instead sent them to mainland China, along with the 35 Chinese nationals.
In April, Taiwan accused China of kidnapping eight of its nationals from Kenya after they were acquitted in a cyber-crime case.
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China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the new group sent to the mainland were involved in the same fraud case, and that the victims and most of the evidence were all on the mainland.
"The Chinese side greatly appreciates and expresses gratitude toward Kenya for firmly upholding the one-China principle," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement on the ministry's website.
Kenya, along with a large majority of other countries around the world, has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan and considers the island part of China, in line with Beijing's "one-China" position.
"This is a strong blow against telecoms fraud by overseas Chinese, and represents the determination of China and Kenya to jointly combat cross-border crime," Hua said.
Hua said the five suspects from Taiwan would be handled according to the law. She did not elaborate.
China has aired televised confessions by some of the Taiwan people previously repatriated, raising concern in Taiwan over violations of due process.
Taiwan's foreign ministry had made a "serious protest" to Kenya and said it was working with the island's ministries of justice and mainland affairs to defend the interests of the five deported citizens via communication channels with China.
"We trust that we will have the understanding and support of our compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and from the international community," Hua said.
Only 22 countries around the world recognizes Taiwan.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)