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Opposition parties and the rights group Amnesty International have raised concerns about the deportation of 77 Chinese nationals from Fiji, following a joint operation between Chinese and Fijian law enforcement agencies.
The deported people are suspected of telecom and online fraud in China worth $US890, 000, and had been in breach of their visa conditions, according to a joint statement from China's Embassy in Fiji and the Fiji Police Force.
Images published in Chinese state media over the weekend showed the deported people arriving in China under heavy police guard, wearing handcuffs and black hoods.
The statement said the removals followed a request for assistance from China's Ministry of Public Service to the Fiji Police Force, adding that "approval was sought from relevant authorities".
Opposition National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the statement raised questions about the capacity of local police.
"We should have the capacity to deal with those breaches, and these should be handled by the Fiji Police."
Fellow opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa from the SODELPA party said the alleged fraud scam may be just one of many operating in Fiji.
"This is just maybe the tip of the iceberg, what else has been happening or is happening that nobody knows about, and the last people to let us know is our own security forces," she said.
Ro Teimumu said the visa waiver arrangement in place between China and Fiji was part of the problem.
"People are just moving in and out [of Fiji] and involved in all sorts of criminal activities, which we only get to hear about after the fact," she said.
Amnesty International said the deportation may not have followed due process and could have breached international principles.
"If these people did actually commit an offence, why weren't they prosecuted in Fiji, why weren't they afforded the opportunity to speak to a lawyer," said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's Pacific researcher.
She said the images of the suspects arriving in China hooded were especially worrisome.
Schuetze said the incident was part of a pattern of similar deportations by Fiji.
Earlier this year Fiji deported Iranian refugee Loghman Sawari back to Papua New Guinea, after he travelled to Fiji to seek asylum.
Sawari, who had spent three years on Manus Island, was arrested and charged with falsifying passport documents upon returning to Papua New Guinea.
"[Sawari] wasn't accorded due process over here, he wasn't able to present his asylum claim," Schuetze said.
"We don't know what [the 77 deported people] have been accused of, and they clearly haven't had the right to present those matters before a court before they were bundled off in a plane. "
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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