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1:37, 06 October 2018

Head of Interpol Disappears, and Eyes Turn Toward China

Head of Interpol Disappears, and Eyes Turn Toward China

Head of Interpol Disappears, and Eyes Turn Toward China

Meng Hongwei was elected president of Interpol in 2016. In April, it was announced that he was no longer on the Communist Party committee that oversees his Chinese ministry.CreditCreditWong Maye-E/Associated Press

By Chris Buckley and Aurelien Breeden

BEIJING &mdash When a high-ranking official in China&rsquos public safety program was elected president of Interpol in 2016, leaders in Beijing rejoiced. The promotion lent respectability to China&rsquos notoriously opaque and arbitrary criminal justice system.

But now that identical official, Meng Hongwei, 64, has himself mysteriously disappeared, following lately returning to China. Even the country&rsquos most internationally prominent police officer, it appears, can vanish without an official murmur from Beijing.

No one seems to know where Mr. Meng is or why he abruptly disappeared, even though he leads an organization that serves as a sort of United Nations for the globe&rsquos police forces.

Interpol issued a cryptic statement on Friday. His wife, who is living in France, where Interpol has its headquarters, reported him missing on Thursday evening following she did not hear from him upon his arrival in China. The French authorities have opened an investigation.

Even with so significantly unknown, questions are currently arising about whether Mr. Meng is under investigation by the Chinese authorities, and no matter whether he was snatched away by safety agents with no notice. If so, his sudden and mysterious disappearance threatens to cloud China&rsquos image, demonstrating that even the most prominent official of an international police organization is vulnerable.

&ldquoIf Meng Hongwei has disappeared in China, then of course the most likely reason is an anticorruption investigation,&rdquo Deng Yuwen, a former editor of a Communist Celebration journal who now writes commentaries on Chinese politics, stated in a telephone interview.

&ldquoInternationally, he is president of Interpol, but in the eyes of the Chinese authorities he is 1st of all Chinese, and they wouldn&rsquot believe too significantly about his international prominence,&rdquo Mr. Deng added. &ldquoThis is the new typical.&rdquo

The Chinese authorities had already sent an emphatic message earlier this week that international prominence was no shield for Chinese citizens. Two days ahead of it became identified that Mr. Meng had apparently disappeared, Chinese state media reported that Fan Bingbing, a Chinese actress who had disappeared for 4 months, had been cooperating with the tax authorities, who fined her almost $70 million in unpaid taxes and penalties. Ms. Fan had appeared in the &ldquoIron Man&rdquo franchise and other massive Hollywood spectacles.

Given that Xi Jinping became head of the Chinese Communist Celebration in 2012, he has demonstrated the no a single, no matter how higher ranking, is immune from accountability. This year, China established an anticorruption investigation agency with wide powers to secretly detain officials suspected of wrongdoing.

Chinese officials under investigation frequently disappear for weeks or even months prior to the government says something about their fate. If it is confirmed that Mr. Meng has been detained, his case could signal that the tactic is continuing.

In 2013, Li Dongsheng, an additional vice minister of public safety, was investigated for corruption and he was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for taking bribes. Last month, China&rsquos anticorruption agency announced that it was investigating Nur Bekri, one particular of the handful of senior Chinese officials from the Uighur ethnic minority. He is a former governor of Xinjiang region in northwest China and most lately was director of the National Power Administration.

Andrew Wedeman, a political scientist at Georgia State University who research corruption in China, stated Mr. Xi&rsquos anticorruption drive appeared to have cooled from a peak in 2015 but nonetheless was nevertheless taking down &ldquotigers&rdquo &mdash the Chinese phrase for fallen senior officials.

&ldquoBy my count, this year they have taken down 17 &lsquotigers&rsquo as a result far &mdash Meng would be tiger No. 18,&rdquo Professor Wedeman mentioned by email. &ldquoMy sense is that the active phase of the crackdown is now more than and we are back to much more routine levels. The tiger hunt is, even so, certainly nonetheless ongoing.&rdquo

In France, investigators discovered of Mr. Meng&rsquos disappearance when his wife went to the police in Lyon on Thursday evening and explained that she not heard from her husband because his arrival in China, according to an official close to the investigation, who insisted on anonymity and was not authorized to comment publicly.

Mr. Meng&rsquos wife also told the police that she had received threats by phone and on social media, and the French authorities have supplied her with police protection, Agence France-Presse reported.

In a statement, Interpol, the primary organization for global police cooperation, said that it was &ldquoaware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance&rdquo of Mr. Meng. &ldquoThis is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China,&rdquo the statement said.

In contrast to Interpol&rsquos secretary common, J&uumlrgen Stock, who straight oversees the group&rsquos daily function of police cooperation and carries out any choices it tends to make, Mr. Meng had a much less hands-on and a lot more ceremonial function. As president, Mr. Meng presides at meetings and conferences, and occasionally represented the organization during trips abroad.

Right after Mr. Meng was elected by Interpol&rsquos common assembly in 2016, he was celebrated by China&rsquos state-run news media as confirming that the country was winning international recognition and respect under President Xi Jinping. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Lu Kang, said at the time that Mr. Meng&rsquos elevation had &ldquoreceived a good response from the broad numbers of member nations&rdquo of Interpol.

&ldquoChina has not been a member of Interpol for long, and Meng Hongwei&rsquos election as its president is undoubtedly related to China&rsquos increasingly critical function in current years in protecting regional and international safety,&rdquo stated a Chinese state newspaper, Beijing Youth Day-to-day. &ldquoThe law enforcement capacities and qualities demonstrated by China&rsquos law enforcement authorities have won broad praise across the planet.&rdquo

Just over a year ago, Mr. Meng presided over a general assembly of Interpol members in Beijing. China&rsquos president, Mr. Xi, gave the opening speech, praising the organization and declaring that &ldquoChina is prepared to share its experience in safety governance with every single country in the planet,&rdquo China&rsquos official news agency, Xinhua reported.

Mr. Meng has remained a vice minister of China&rsquos Ministry of Public Security although he serves as president of Interpol, and a web page describing his background and activities remained on the ministry&rsquos website on Friday. China is in the middle of a weeklong National Day getaway, and calls to the ministry&rsquos media office on Friday evening had been not answered.

In April, the ministry disclosed that Mr. Meng was no longer a member of the Communist Celebration committee that oversees the ministry, a step that sparked speculation on overseas Chinese web sites that he could be in trouble.

But official Chinese news media have not leveled any accusations against Mr. Meng, and as not too long ago as August, he continued to get official visitors in Beijing.

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Published at Fri, 05 Oct 2018 21:12:18 +0000

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