December 17, 2018

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Interpol Demands Answers From China About Its Missing President

Interpol Demands Answers From China About Its Missing President
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PARIS — Interpol has made a formal request to China for information about its president, a Chinese citizen who seemingly vanished on a trip home, citing concerns for his well-being.

The agency for global police cooperation used law enforcement channels to submit its request about the status of its missing president, Meng Hongwei, it said Saturday in a brief statement.

The agency “looks forward to an official response from China’s authorities to address concerns over the president’s well-being,” the statement added.

Officials in China, which is in the middle of a weeklong national holiday, had yet to comment.

Mr. Meng’s wife says she has not heard from him since he left Lyon, the city in central France where Interpol has its headquarters, in September. France has begun its own investigation, with the French authorities saying that he had boarded a plane and arrived in China, but that his subsequent whereabouts is unknown.

Mr. Meng, 64, is also a vice minister for public security in China.

Previously, Interpol had said that reports about Mr. Meng’s disappearance were “a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China.”

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, has suggested that Mr. Meng may have been the latest target of a campaign against corruption in China.

The newspaper said that upon landing last week, Mr. Meng was “taken away” for questioning by what it said were “discipline authorities.” The term usually describes investigators in the ruling Communist Party who investigate graft and political disloyalty.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s secretive internal investigation agency, had no announcements on its website about Mr. Meng and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Meng is the first from his country to serve as Interpol’s president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status. His absence may have little operational effect: Interpol’s secretary general is responsible for its day-to-day running.

The organization links up police officials of its 192 member states, who can use it to disseminate their search for a fugitive or a missing person. Only at the behest of a country does the information go public via a “red notice,” the closest thing to an international arrest warrant. “Yellow notices” are issued for missing persons.

Mr. Meng’s appointment as president in 2016 — amid the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s sweeping anticorruption drive — alarmed some human rights organizations, fearful it would embolden China to strike out at dissidents and refugees abroad.

Mr. Meng has held various positions in China’s security establishment, including as a vice minister of public security since 2004; he is still listed on the ministry’s website as holding that post. His term as Interpol president runs until 2020.

His duties in China would have put him in proximity to former leaders, some who fell afoul of Mr. Xi’s campaign. He is likely to have dealt extensively with Zhou Yongkang, a former security chief now serving a life sentence for corruption.



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