Interpol President resigns after Chinese detention

Chinese authorities are investigating Meng Hongwei, who heads the global law enforcement organisation Interpol, for suspected violations of the law, China’s antigraft watchdog says.

Mr Meng, who is also a vice minister of public security in China, had been reported missing after traveling from France, where Interpol is based, to China.

Interpol said France received the resignation of Mr Meng with immediate effect.

“Today, Sunday 7 October, (at) the Interpol General Secretariat in Lyon, France received the resignation of Mr Meng Hongwei as President of Interpol with immediate effect,” Interpol said in a statement.

Interpol said South Korean national Kim Jong Yang would becomes its acting president, while it would appoint a new president at a 18-21 November meeting of the organisation in Dubai.

“Public Security Ministry Vice Minister Meng Hongwei is currently under investigation by the National Supervisory Commission for suspected violations of law,” the Chinese anti-graft body said in a brief statement on its website.

The statement was the first from China since Mr Meng’s disappearance had been reported in France on Friday.

When asked about the Chinese announcement, France’s Interior Ministry said it had no information.

The French ministry said on Friday that Mr Meng’s family had not heard from him since 25 September.

The French authorities said his wife had been placed under police protection after receiving threats.

French police have been investigating what is officially termed in France a “worrying disappearance”.

Interpol had said last week it had asked Beijing to clarify Mr Meng’s situation. The organisation had no immediate comment.

Local French media reported that Mr Meng’s wife had issued a brief statement from a hotel in Lyon, in which she expressed her concerns over the situation.

“As long as I can’t see my husband in front of me, speaking to me, I can’t have any confidence,” Grace Meng was quoted as saying by French TV stations and Sunday newspapers, which added she made the comments with her back to a TV camera, in order to hide her appearance.

Reuters could not confirm those comments attributed to her.

Mr Meng, 64, was named to the post of Interpol president in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organisations.

Presidents of Interpol are seconded from their national administrations and remain in their home post while representing the international policing body.

Interpol, which groups 192 countries and is usually focused on finding people who are missing or wanted, is run on a day-to-day basis by its secretary general, Juergen Stock.

When Mr Meng was named Interpol’s president, human rights groups expressed concern that Beijing might try to leverage his position to pursue dissidents abroad. Beijing has in the past pressed countries to arrest and deport to China citizens it accuses of crimes, from corruption to terrorism.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has been engaged in a crackdown on corruption.