Interpol president reported missing during trip to China

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The president of Interpol, a former senior Chinese security official, has been reported missing after he travelled to his native country at the end of September, a French judicial official said.

Meng Hongwei’s wife reported on Friday that she had not heard from her 64-year-old husband since he left Lyon, France, where Interpol is based, said the official.

The French official said Mr Meng did arrive in China.

There was no further word on Mr Meng’s schedule in China or what prompted his wife to wait until now to report his absence.

In a statement, Interpol said it was aware of reports about Mr Meng’s disappearance and added “this is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China”.

The statement noted that Interpol’s secretary general, and not its president, is responsible for the international police agency’s operations.

The entrance hall of Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, central France
The entrance hall of Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon (Laurent Cipriani/AP)

The South China Morning Post reported that Mr Meng was placed under investigation in China as soon as he arrived in the country last week.

An Interpol spokesman said the agency is aware of the Post’s story but would not comment on it or say if Chinese authorities had detained the 64-year-old.

News of the investigation into Mr Meng’s disappearance came during a week-long public holiday in China.

Mr Meng was elected president of Interpol in November 2016 and his term runs until 2020.

He has held a variety of positions within China’s security establishment, including as a vice minister of public security – the national police force – since 2004.

In the meantime, he served as head and deputy head of branches of the coast guard, all while holding positions at Interpol.

Mr Meng’s duties in China would have put him in close proximity to former leaders, some of whom had fallen foul of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping crackdown on corruption.

In particular, Mr Meng probably dealt extensively with former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.

Mr Xi has also placed a premium on obtaining the return of officials and businesspeople accused of fraud and corruption from abroad, making Mr Meng’s position all the more sensitive.

When Mr Meng was elected in 2016 as Interpol president, rights groups expressed concern that he would pursue an agenda of politicised policing that targeted Mr Xi’s opponents.

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