By: Chou Yew-woei, Commissioner Criminal Investigation Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan)
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people lost their jobs because of the lockdowns and have been desperately looking for financial support. So if a tempting job opportunity came knocking, it would naturally be hard to resist. The harsh reality for those traveling overseas for work, however, is that they risk falling victim to human trafficking, a new form of transnational crime that is preying on people around the world.
The following type of exchange crops up very often in recent cases of these new types of transnational crime: “Late at night, just as I was thinking of my loved one, who works abroad, I got an SMS from her. She said how wonderful and easygoing her job was, and hoped that I could join her there. She said that together we could work toward a better future.” Does this sound familiar?
Fraud is a crime with a long history. It emerged in parallel with the advent of human language and the development of human civilization. In modern times, with the advancement of information and communications technology, this age-old crime is gaining new dimensions and posing an incalculable threat to global security. As INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock has said, the need for solid international police cooperation is more vital than ever in order to deal with new forms of transnational crime such as human trafficking and fraud.
Criminal organizations are now operating under highly organized corporate-style models that are based on sophisticated divisions of labor, information exchange, peer learning, and collusion and complicity. To combat transnational crime, law enforcement officers from around the world must unite and come together.
The world should not exclude Taiwan, as this is letting criminals have their way. Instead, in line with the founding purpose of INTERPOL—to ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities—Taiwan’s police authorities are taking the initiative of engaging with their counterparts around the world to fight crime. Their aim is to close the gap in the global security network and work toward a safer world.
With an outstanding track record of public security, Taiwan must be included in efforts to combat transnational crime
As the world’s 21st-largest economy and 17th-largest exporter, Taiwan serves as a pivotal link between Northeast and Southeast Asia and as a hub for the flow of people, goods, and capital.
According to the Expat Insider’s 2023 annual survey, Taiwan was the fifth-best country for expats thanks to its beautiful natural environment, friendly people, and advanced economy and healthcare system.
Taiwan’s overall quality of life also ranked second globally, surpassing countries like the United States, Australia, and Thailand. Similarly, the United Nations 2023 World Happiness Report, which measures happiness in 137 countries, ranked Taiwan fourth in Asia.
Furthermore, according to 2023 safety and crime rankings by the database website Numbeo, out of 142 countries, Taiwan ranked third for safety and had the third-lowest crime rate of all countries evaluated—better than all other Asian countries.
Acknowledging Taiwan’s consistent efforts, for 14 consecutive years the US Department of State has ranked Taiwan as a Tier 1 country for combating human trafficking among over 180 countries and regions worldwide.
The US government has also stated that despite the impact of the pandemic, Taiwan has continued to work hand-in-hand with the private sector to combat human trafficking and overcome various challenges.
However, Taiwan is not resting on its laurels. Given the escalating risks caused by new types of transnational crime, Taiwan is continuing to surmount its own outstanding track record of public security. By participating in INTERPOL and working in collaboration with global police authorities, we can all fight transnational crime together.
Without Taiwan, INTERPOL is incomplete and insecure
International organizations serve as important platforms for global governance. Participating in these organizations allows Taiwan to connect with the world, providing a way to utilize its soft power and give back to the global community. However, for political reasons, Taiwan has been unable to participate in INTERPOL for over 39 years.
Yet at the same time, as transnational crime flourishes in this era of globalization, Taiwanese passports, which enjoy visa-free access to 145 countries and territories, have become prime targets for transnational criminals. This is a threat that should not be underestimated.
Taiwan’s capacity to carry out border security checks and combat transnational crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking is severely hampered by its lack of access to real-time criminal intelligence shared through INTERPOL’s I-24/7 system and its stolen and lost travel documents database.
Taiwan’s long-standing exclusion from INTERPOL means that vital exchanges of intelligence are often out of date and incorrect. And Taiwan’s inability to participate in associated INTERPOL meetings, activities, and training has created a significant gap in the global security and antiterrorism network.
Taiwan’s experiences can serve as valuable reference, and Taiwan is willing to actively engage with INTERPOL
In 2022, Taiwan’s police authorities uncovered a shocking new type of human trafficking occurring in Cambodia and Myanmar. Operating under highly organized corporate models, crime syndicates had used online platforms to recruit people from all over the world, promising overseas job opportunities as bait.
In reality, victims were held captive, forced to work in scam call centers, and subjected to such inhumane treatment as electric shocks, beating, drugging, and sexual violence in order to coerce them into aiding the syndicates’ many illegal activities, including transnational fraud, the laundering of cryptocurrencies, and drug and human trafficking.
Reports by Taiwan’s police authorities to INTERPOL were to no avail. Instead, Taiwan had to rely on police forces in friendly countries to pass on intelligence and cooperate in investigations.
Taiwan also mobilized a national cross-government antifraud team to carry out preventative, deterrence, rescue, and investigative operations and stop any more Taiwanese people from being coerced into fraudulent activities. As of July 2023, 478 victims had been successfully rescued.
Information shared by Taiwan has aroused international attention, and friendly police forces in Europe, the United States, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere are now aware of this new type of crime, whose victims have hailed from a wide range of nations.
Only by combining international resources and conducting cooperative investigations can laws be enforced and can this global security issue be addressed.
With global security of vital importance, support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in INTERPOL remains essential
When China applied for accession to INTERPOL in 1984, it attached conditions that contravened the spirit of the INTERPOL Constitution. China took over Taiwan’s membership rights and status and constantly cited so-called “political issues” to ensure that INTERPOL excluded Taiwan from substantive participation in the organization, creating a breach in crime prevention and intelligence sharing.
This has also made Taiwan’s efforts to fight transnational crime and make the world a better place all the more difficult.
We are unwilling to accept Voltaire’s assertion that “history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.” I ask everyone to support Taiwan’s participation in INTERPOL’s annual General Assembly as an observer.
This would allow Taiwan’s police authorities to participate in various activities, meetings, and training, interact with other countries, and address the deficiency in transnational crime intelligence exchange. This is not a political issue. Global security concerns us all. Let Taiwan and INTERPOL work together. (AK/R1/RE1)