Meng Hongwei: China confirms detention of Interpol chief

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Meng HongweiImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

Meng Hongwei is a senior Communist Party official as well as Interpol president

China has confirmed it is holding the missing head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei.

Beijing said he was under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption body for unspecified breaches of the law.

Mr Meng, who is also listed as a vice-minister of public security in China, was reported missing after travelling from the city of Lyon in France, where Interpol is based, to China.

His family had not heard from him since he left Interpol headquarters on 25 September.

China’s National Supervision Commission, which handles corruption cases involving public servants, said Mr Meng was under investigation in a statement on its website.

Mr Meng is the latest high-profile disappearance in China, where a number of top government officials, billionaires and even an A-list celebrity have vanished in recent months.

Earlier this week, actress Fan Bingbing, who disappeared in China in July, emerged with a public apology and a fine of 883 million yuan ($129m; £98.9m) for tax evasion and other offences.

What did Mr Meng’s wife say about his disappearance?

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Grace Meng did not want to be identified out of fear for her safety

Grace Meng told journalists she thought he was in danger.

She issued an emotional plea for international help to find her husband.

On the day he went missing, she said he had sent her a social media message telling her to “wait for my call”, before sending a knife emoticon, signifying danger.

“I’m not sure what has happened to him,” she said.

With her back to the cameras to avoid being identified out of fear for her safety, she held back sobs to read out a statement in Chinese and English.

“We are always connected by hearts. He would support me in doing this. The matter belongs to fairness and justice. The matter belongs to the international community. The matter belongs to the people of my motherland.”

The Xi campaign

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

The Chinese authorities have confirmed what everyone already presumed: that Meng Hongwei was detained when his plane landed in China.

The fact that news of his detention was released by Beijing’s anti-corruption authority suggests Mr Meng has been caught up in the broad anti-corruption campaign ordered by President Xi Jinping, and which has already led to the disappearance of many senior figures.

The mystery of what happened to him has now been cleared up – but the details of the charges weighing against him, and the fate that awaits him are as opaque as ever.

What has Interpol said and what does it do?

On Saturday, the international police agency urged China to clarify Mr Meng’s status, saying it was concerned about the well-being of its president.

It had earlier said Mr Meng’s case was “for the relevant authorities in both France and China”. France has opened an investigation but said on Sunday it had no further information.

It is Interpol’s general secretariat that largely oversees the day-to-day work of the 192-member organisation, with the role of the president largely ceremonial.

Interpol co-ordinates searches among its members, issuing yellow notices for missing persons and a red notice – an international alert – for a wanted person. However, it does not have the power to send officers into countries to arrest individuals or issue arrest warrants.

Who is Meng Hongwei?

Image copyright
EPA

He was elected Interpol president in November 2016, the first Chinese to take up the post, and is scheduled to serve until 2020.

He heads the organisation’s Executive Committee, which provides overall guidance and direction.

Mr Meng has 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing in China, notably in the fields of drugs, counter-terrorism and border control.

After his election human rights groups expressed concern that the move could help China pursue political dissidents who have fled the country.



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