Wife of ex-Interpol boss describes threats

4 2017 shows Meng Hongwei president of Interpol delivering an addresses at the opening of the Interpol World Congress in Singapore

You don't hear much about Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization based in France, but something really weird is happening with the agency right now.

Monday's statement on the ministry of public security's website provided no details about the bribes Meng allegedly took or other crimes he is accused of, but suggested that he was also being investigated for political lapses.

What is significant is that detention of high-profile persons is nothing new in China and usually the Chinese authorities bring the charge of "violating party rules" against them. And he had a hand in Chinese police operations that reached overseas, including Operation Fox Hunt, which sought to repatriate hundreds of former Chinese officials and businesspeople who had fled overseas and were suspected of corruption.

Over the weekend, the wife of current Interpol president Meng Hongwei - a Chinese national who is also China's vice minister of public security - made headlines when she reported her husband was missing. "This matter belongs to the global community", she told a press conference with her back turned to the cameras out of fear for her safety.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has been engaged in a sweeping crackdown on official corruption. Acting Interpol president Kim Jong Yang, of South Korea, said the organization had not been told previously of the investigation into Meng.

"We should deeply recognize the serious damage that Meng Hongwei's bribe-taking and suspected violations of the law have caused the party and the cause of public security and deeply learn from this lesson", said the announcement about the meeting, chaired by Minister Zhao Lezhi. After that China was very unhappy with Mr Meng. Most officials investigated by anti-graft authorities are quietly spirited away for questioning, cut off from contact from their families and not allowed access to lawyers, sometimes for months.

Meng, 64, was last heard from on September 25, and the lack of details about his disappearance led French authorities and Interpol to go public.

Meng Hongwei, the head of Interpol (the worldwide police organization), disappeared mysteriously during his trip to China in late September. Meng could not be reached for comment.

Interpol requested further information on Mr Meng's arrest on Saturday, but accepted his resignation with immediate effect.

When Mr Meng was appointed two years ago, one newspaper here wrote that it would "promote understanding overseas of China's justice system". He has tended a written resignation to Interpol. Interpol named him the first Chinese president of the organization in 2016, triggering worldwide human rights concerns given the authoritarian and often arbitrary way the Chinese Communist Party wields power against political dissidents at home.

French officials disclosed on Friday that Meng had been reported missing after leaving France for China, while his wife voiced concern for his life on Sunday some two weeks after he texted her an ominous knife emoji. It dealt a spectacular, self-inflicted blow to China's efforts to prove itself ready for more prominent roles in global affairs. Interpol quickly said it "regretted" the secretive move.

"I find it regrettable that the top leader of the organisation had to go out this way and that we weren't specifically notified of what was happening in advance", Mr Kim said.

China's beleaguered rights activists point out that as someone with a seat atop the country's powerful public security apparatus, Meng has helped build the opaque system of largely unchecked power wielded by the ruling Communist Party to which he's now fallen victim.

Officials at the meeting were told that they "must always maintain the political quality of being absolutely loyal to the party", the statement said.

While acknowledging that Mr. Meng was under detention, the Chinese Foreign Ministry asserted on Monday that the investigation demonstrated Beijing's iron will to crackdown on corruption.



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