China tight-lipped on disappearance of Interpol chief

Interpol President Meng Hongwei walks toward the stage to deliver his opening address at the Interpol World congress. — AP

The Lyon-based worldwide police agency said Saturday that it used law enforcement channels to submit its request about Meng's status to Beijing, citing concerns about his well-being.

Interpol president Meng Hongwei has been detained in China for questioning as part of an investigation against him, a media report said Saturday, a day after he was reported missing in his native country.

Meng's disappearance was originally reported by his wife, who told French police in the city of Lyon she had not heard from him since he travelled to China. He appears to have moved swiftly into the central government in Beijing, acting as an assistant to the public security minister - China's top cop - as well as head of the transportation department.

Mr Meng is a Chinese national and former Communist Party official.

"France is puzzled about the situation of Interpol's president and concerned about the threats made to his wife", the ministry said. Because Interpol's secretary general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency's operations, Meng's absence may have little operational effect.

The newspaper said that upon landing a week ago, Meng was "taken away" for questioning by what it said were "discipline authorities".

Roderic Broadhurst, a professor of criminology at Australian National University, said Meng's disappearance would be "pretty disconcerting" for people in global bodies that work with China, and could ultimately damage China's efforts to develop cooperative legal assistance measures with other countries.

As of yet there is no indication as to why Meng would be under investigation by authorities in Beijing.

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Interpol is the world's largest agency facilitating police cooperation with 192 member countries.

Meng was appointed head of Interpol in 2016, and was due to serve until 2020. "Yellow notices" are issued for missing persons.

According to reports in Chinese media, "Meng's position at China's Ministry of Public Security as a vice-minister had become untenable, as he lost his seat on its Communist Party Committee in April". His experience ranges from narcotics control to counter-terrorism, according to Interpol's website.

Xi has been seeking the return of officials and businesspeople accused of fraud and corruption from overseas, sometimes with the help of Interpol in an arrangement human rights advocates say is prone to abuse.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brow, reporting from Beijing, said China's silence is a "reflection of how sensitive this case is".

The 36-year-old took to China's Twitter-like Weibo to acknowledge her wrongs, beg for her supporters" forgiveness, and apologise to "society, the friends who care about me, the public and the national tax authorities'.

It does not have agents of its own with powers of arrest.

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