Getting into Interpol: Taiwan’s Predicament

A hearing at the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee last year that led to a unanimous Congressional resolution supporting Taiwan's bid for observer status in interpol. (photo: CNA)
This is Part 4 of the Special Report on Public Safety: Links to Part 1Part2Part 3, Part 5
In recent years, Taiwan has made many efforts to gain membership in the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), including presenting numerous petitions to allow it to at least gain observer status. The U.S. government has joined Taiwan in these efforts, and in March of this year U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill that requires the U.S. Secretary of State to formally develop a strategy for helping Taiwan gain entrance into the organization. However, because of its lack of diplomatic status and objections from China, Taiwan today remains an outsider looking in.

It wasn’t always so. Prior to China’s joining Interpol in 1984, Taiwan had been a full member of the police organization for nearly two decades. Now despite being on the outside, Taiwan hopes to both participate and assist in Interpol efforts. In an interview, Taiwan police officials firmly expressed the belief that Taiwan and the world would both benefit from Taiwan being accepted as a member for several reasons.

First, Taiwan’s outsider status means that it cannot check criminal “wanted-lists,” potential terrorist alerts, or information on other cross-border criminal activities in an effective and responsible manner. Lacking access to the most updated information shared across Interpol networks also means that Taiwan may be unaware of fugitives that could be hiding on the island. Not being an Interpol member likewise prevents Taiwan from having a comprehensive and effective vehicle to disseminate locally generated information on crime to the international community.

Faced with this predicament, Taiwan is forced to sign agreements with individual nations to allow mutual police enforcement. These bilateral agreements enable Taiwan’s National Police Agency to do such things as send representatives to foreign countries and do police work through Taiwan’s consulates abroad. Additionally, these agreements allow Taiwanese police to trade information with their foreign counterparts to make sure information on crime is up-to-date.

Using this method, Taiwan’s police force has cooperated successfully with nations such as China on many investigations. Working together with China’s police agencies has allowed the two sides to jointly deter and solve crimes by trading information and collaborating on investigations. The downside of employing bilateral agreements is that Taiwan needs to spend time approaching each nation individually, which is time consuming and inefficient.

Taiwanese police officials express the hope that Interpol will recognize the contributions that Taiwan’s police forces can make to the organization and grant it access.