Lyon, France—The Interpol chief has seemingly vanished after a visit to China.
Interpol President Meng Hongwei, who is Chinese and a former Senior Communist Party official, went to his native country for a visit a week ago. He hasn’t been heard or seen since. An official investigation began only after Meng’s wife, alarmed by his silence and threats to her family, notified the French police.
Interpol released a press statement saying, “It is aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance.” Interpol highlighted that “this is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China.”
Meng has previously served as director of the Chinese Coastguard and deputy chief of the country’s Oceanic Department. Additionally, Meng was China’s deputy minister of public security. In that role, the 64-year-old Meng was, among others, responsible for the Chinese secret police. That unit conducts domestic counterintelligence, foreign intelligence gathering, and also provides security to senior Communist Party members and government officials.
The French Interior Ministry announced, “Exchanges with Chinese authorities continue. France is puzzled about the situation of Interpol’s president and concerned about the threats made to his wife.”
According to the Chinese supervision law, legal or law enforcement authorities must notify the family and employer of an arrested suspect within 24 hours of their arrest. They can opt not to do so in the event that it will hinder the authorities’ investigation
Since his election in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the arrest and punishment of over a million government and military officials, mostly for corruption allegations. He has used Interpol to arrest many of those who had fled abroad.
“It’s really terrifying, and underscores that no one—no one—is safe,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch.
Many were alarmed with Meng’s appointment in 2016. The East Asia director at Amnesty International, Nicholas Bequelin, had said that his appointment was shocking “given China’s long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad. It seems at odds with Interpol’s mandate to work in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There now needs to be close scrutiny of the kinds of notices that Interpol issues at the request of the Chinese government.”
Interpol is an international organisation that supports and enhances global law enforcement cooperation. The organisation is headquartered in Lyon, France, and has 192 country members.
Currently, Meng is in the second year of his four-year stint. His disappearance, however, will not impede Interpol’s daily operation, since they are coordinated by the organisation’s secretary-general, Jürgen Stock.