Reuters International

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan on Monday accused China, which regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province, of kidnapping eight of its nationals who it said had been acquitted in a cyber crime case in Kenya.

Kenya's attorney-general said in January it was considering a request from Beijing to extradite 76 Chinese charged with cyber crime in Kenya for trial in their homeland.

But Taiwan said some of these people were actually from Taiwan and that a total of 23 of its people had been acquitted last Tuesday by a Kenyan court and given 21 days to leave.

Yet China pressured Kenyan police to put eight of the Taiwanese nationals on to a Chinese jet bound for China on Friday, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said. It did not say how they were taken.

"This is an uncivilized act of illegal kidnapping and a serious violation of basic human rights," the ministry said in a statement, adding it was demanding the immediate return of the eight.

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which distrusts China, also weighed in on the issue, demanding China "repatriate our people and guarantee their legal rights".

China views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under Beijing's control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after a civil war with the Communists now in control in Beijing.

Only 22 countries recognise Taiwan, with most, including Kenya, having diplomatic relations with Beijing, recognising its "one China" policy.

Taiwan had sent officials from its representative office in South Africa to Kenya to try to deal with the case as it has no office in Kenya, the Foreign Ministry added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he needed to "further understand" the situation, when asked during a regular news briefing on Monday.

"But in principle, countries which follow the 'one China' principle are worthy of approval," he added, without elaborating. 

China's Taiwan Affairs Office, which oversees relations with Taiwan, said in a short statement sent to Reuters it was trying to find out what had happened. China's Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a request for comment.

Kenyan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Ties between Taiwan and China rapidly improved after the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou took power in 2008 as Taiwan president and signed a series of landmark trade and business deals.

But China has looked on with suspicion at Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning DPP won presidential and parliamentary elections in January.

Last month, China resumed ties with former Taiwan ally Gambia. China and Taiwan had for years tried to poach each other's allies, often dangling generous aid packages in front of leaders of developing nations.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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