Interpol demands China 'clarification' on missing police chief

Interpol President Meng Hongwei walks toward the stage to deliver his opening address at the Interpol World congress. — AP

The Lyon-based agency said in a brief statement Saturday that "it looks forward to an official response from China's authorities to address concerns over the president's well-being".

Meng's wife lives in Lyon and recently contacted French police after not hearing from her husband since he traveled to China in late September.

His disappearance was made public on Friday, when French authorities said they were opening an investigation to find out what happened to Meng, a Chinese national who served a lengthy term as the vice minister for public security.

A source familiar with the investigation said the working assumption was that the 64-year-old had antagonised Chinese authorities and had been detained as a result. He appears to have moved swiftly into the central government in Beijing, acting as an assistant to the public security minister - China's top cop - as well as head of the transportation department.

Meng's appointment as president in 2016 - amid Chinese leader Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption drive - alarmed some human rights organizations, fearful it would embolden China to strike out at dissidents and refugees overseas.

According to the South China Morning Post, the Interpol chief may have been a target of a campaign against corruption in the country.

Because Interpol's secretary general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency's operations, Mr Meng's absence may have little operational effect. The language of Interpol's Saturday statement seeking "clarification" from Chinese authorities gives further impetus to these reports.




Roderic Broadhurst, a professor of criminology at Australian National University, said Meng's disappearance was "bizarre" and would be "pretty disconcerting" for people in worldwide bodies that work with China, and could ultimately damage China's efforts to develop cooperative legal assistance measures with other countries.

So far neither the public security ministry nor the foreign ministry in China has commented.

Interpol, which groups 192 countries and which is usually focused on finding people who are missing or wanted, said it was aware of reports about Meng's "alleged disappearance".

In 2014, China worked through Interpol to issue notices for 100 Chinese corruption suspects who fled overseas.

Mr Meng has held various positions within China's security establishment, including as a vice minister of public security since 2004.

However, his appointment was an alarming sign of China's ability to shape global organisations, including those in which its authoritarian influence was extremely risky, she said. His experience ranges from narcotics control to counter-terrorism, according to Interpol's website.

China now has 44 outstanding red notices, mostly related to murder, intentional injury and drug smuggling, according to Interpol's web site.

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