Interpol President Is Detained by China and Has Quit His Post


The Chinese Communist Party announced late Sunday that the missing president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was under investigation on “suspicion of violating the law” and was “under the supervision” of an anticorruption watchdog tied to the party.

The announcement that Mr. Meng, a Chinese national, was being detained was posted online by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s watchdog against graft and political disloyalty, on Sunday night; Mr. Meng was reported missing on Thursday. The Chinese agency did not give any further details.

A few hours later, Interpol said it had received Mr. Meng’s resignation “with immediate effect.”

The statement of his detention and his subsequent stepping down came a day after Interpol demanded answers from the Chinese government on the whereabouts of Mr. Meng.

The detention of Mr. Meng, 64, is a stunning move by the party, even by the standards of the increasingly authoritarian system under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. China seeks legitimacy and a leadership role in international organizations, and Mr. Meng’s appointment in November 2016 as the president of Interpol, the first one from China, was seen by many as a significant step in that direction.

The announcement of his detention came hours after Mr. Meng’s wife, Grace, told reporters in Lyon, France, where the two were living, that before her husband vanished on a trip to China, he had sent her a phone message with an emoticon of a knife.

She interpreted the knife image to mean “he is in danger,” she said in a brief statement to reporters on Sunday in Lyon, where the international policing organization is headquartered.

Ms. Meng gave her statement at a hotel in Lyon, keeping her back to reporters so that her face would not be captured on camera, a precaution that she said was for security reasons both for herself and her children.

She said she received the message with the knife image shortly after Mr. Meng had arrived in China. It came just four minutes after she received a message from him saying, ‘Wait for my call,” she said.

She has not heard from him again. She reported his disappearance to the French police on Oct. 4. A French police investigation is now underway, with the authorities saying that he had boarded a plane and arrived in China, but that his subsequent whereabouts was unknown.

In addition to serving as president of the international crime fighting body, Mr. Meng is also vice minister in the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

The central commission can detain party officials for months or years while carrying out an investigation. The commission often concludes an investigation by stripping the official of party membership, stating the official’s violations of party regulations and referring the official to the justice system for criminal prosecution.

Since Mr. Xi took power as president of China, the commission has gone on a wide-ranging anticorruption campaign that has touched every level of the party.

His detention means that internal party dynamics supersede any concern by the party about international legitimacy or transparency.

It is unclear what led to his apparent downfall — a power struggle within the party or an actual case of corruption officials deemed to be beyond the pale.

There have been investigations of prominent figures in the anticorruption campaign. The most notable has been that of Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee and top security official. Many analysts of Chinese politics say Mr. Xi viewed Mr. Zhou as a rival and used the anticorruption campaign to imprison him.

In 2015, Mr. Zhou was convicted by a criminal court of abusing power, accepting bribes and revealing state secrets; he was sentenced to life in prison. His wife and son were sentenced the next year for taking bribes.

Over the summer, officials secretly detained Fan Bingbing, one of China’s most famous actresses. Her disappearance in July prompted wild speculation for months. Last week, Chinese officials announced that she had been fined almost $130 million for tax evasion.

Mr. Meng was last seen leaving Interpol headquarters in Lyon for his trip to China. His wife and children had moved with him to Lyon after his appointment.

Under the terms of Interpol’s Constitution, the acting senior vice president, Kim Jong-yang of South Korea becomes acting president.

At her news conference on Sunday, Ms. Meng said she had decided to speak publicly because she felt it was her responsibility to do so.

“From now on, I have gone from sorrow and fear to the pursuit of truth, justice and responsibility toward history,” she said. “For the husband whom I deeply love, for my young children, for the people of my motherland, for all the wives and children’s husbands and fathers to no longer disappear.”



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