Three Things to Know About Former Interpol Chief’s Disappearance
For decades, Harbin-born Meng Hongwei worked his way up China’s public security hierarchy, eventually becoming the first Chinese president of Interpol two years ago.
And then, Meng’s career collapsed in a single dramatic week.
How it unfolded
Meng’s wife, Grace (whose Chinese name has not been disclosed), reported his disappearance Thursday to police in Lyon, France, where Interpol is based, according to The Associated Press. She said she had not heard from Meng since Sept. 25, when he sent her a message saying “Wait for my call,” and a knife emoji.
Meng was on a trip to Beijing in late September, although reports vary over the date he left France. Meng left France on Sept. 29, according to Agence France-Presse, which cited a source that said “he did not disappear in France.” The Guardian reported that Meng arrived in China on Sept. 25.
Days later, Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock asked Chinese authorities for an official explanation of Meng’s situation, according to a statement published by the organization Saturday.
On Sunday, China’s National Supervisory Commission — the country’s top agency for handling corruption cases involving public servants — said in a one-sentence statement (link in Chinese) that Meng was being investigated for unspecified “suspected violations of the law.”
Shortly after the Chinese statement was issued, Interpol said it had received Meng’s resignation, and that Interpol Senior Vice-President Kim Jong Yang will become acting president.
Was Meng connected to fallen security czar?
Meng is under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes, China’s Ministry of Public Security — of which Meng was a vice president — revealed (link in Chinese) in a strongly worded statement on Monday.
The statement said Meng “only had himself to blame” for the investigation, and called for the “conscientious use of the legal system to regulate and restrict power.” Meng’s investigation was mentioned alongside an effort to “thoroughly purge the poisonous influence of Zhou Yongkang," China’s former top security official who was put under investigation in 2014 on corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison in 2015. The statement didn't specify the relationship between the two cases.
Zhou “took advantage of his posts to seek profits for others and accepted huge bribes,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in 2014. He was also accused of committing “adultery with a number of women and (trading) his power for sex and money.”
Meng was Interpol’s first Chinese president
Meng became the first-ever Chinese president of Interpol in 2016. Meng has also held positions in China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, its National Counter-Terrorism Office, as well as its Ministry of Public Security, according to the official Interpol website.
Meng’s election as Interpol president came at the height of China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, a year after the Interpol China National Central Bureau issued international arrest warrants for 100 officials suspected of corruption. Meng’s appointment was criticized by some as a way for China to expand its influence over Interpol, which is the only organization with the authority to authorize international warrants.
China was the seventh-largest contributor of Interpol funding in 2017, providing 2.03 million euros ($2.33 million). The U.S. was the top funder with a contribution of 10.6 million euros, nearly a fifth of the organization’s total funding of 54.4 million euros, according to figures provided by Interpol.
This story has been updated to correct the fact that the relationship between Meng Hongwei’s investigation and the case of Zhou Yongkang remains unclear.
Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (email@example.com)
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