PARIS – France has opened an investigation into the disappearance of the Chinese president of the International Police Organization, Meng Hongwei, after he went missing on a visit to China.
The Interpol chief’s wife, who is living in France, where the international law enforcement organization is based, reported him missing on Friday, according to multiple media reports.
French officials said that members of Meng’s family have not heard from him since he departed from the French city of Lyon on September 25, according to a report from the BBC.
Sources quoted by The South China Morning Post said he was “taken away” for questioning in China.
“France is puzzled about the situation of Interpol’s president and concerned about the threats made to his wife,” the French interior ministry was quoted by BBC as saying.
Interpol released a vague statement that it was aware of the “alleged disappearance,” but said the matter should be resolved by “relevant authorities in France and China.”
As of yet there is no indication as to why Meng would be under investigation by authorities in Beijing. The Chinese law enforcement official’s election as president of Interpol in 2016 was seen at the time as a victory for Beijing, and a development that lended legitimacy to the international reputation of China’s criminal justice system.
Though few details have emerged, the mysterious circumstances of Meng’s disappearance have already prompted criticisms of Chinese authorities’ lack of transparency.
Meng’s wife, Grace Meng made an impassioned plea Sunday for help in bringing her missing husband to safety, saying she thinks he sent an image of a knife before he disappeared in China as a way to warn her he was in danger.
Grace Meng detailed the last messages she exchanged with her husband, Interpol President Meng Hongwei, to reporters as part of her unusual appeal. Meng is China’s vice minister for public security, and regularly traveled between Beijing and Lyon, France, where Interpol is based.
His wife’s plea underscored how China’s system of shady and often-arbitrary detentions can ensnare even a senior public security official with international standing, leaving loved ones uninformed and in a panic.
In news that could confirm her fears: China announced less than an hour after she spoke Sunday that Meng was under investigation on suspicion of unspecified legal violations, making him the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping crackdown by the ruling Communist Party.
Interpol then announced that Meng had resigned as president, effective immediately. It did not say why, or provide details about Meng’s whereabouts or condition. He was elected to lead the international police agency in 2016 and his term was not set to end until 2020.
Meng’s unexplained disappearance in China, which had prompted the French government and Interpol to make their concerns known publicly, threatened to tarnish Beijing’s image as a rising Asian power.
Xi, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has overseen a harsh crackdown on civil society that is aimed at squelching dissent and activism among lawyers and rights advocates.
He has also used a popular and wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign to boost supervision of the party and as a powerful weapon with which to purge his political opponents.
Source: Asia Times, AFP, BBC, AP