Interpol President Meng Hongwei has been reported missing after leaving France for his native China last week. The leader's wife reported his disappearance to French authorities on Sept. 29. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)
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The head of international policing agency Interpol went missing during a trip to his native China last week.
France has launched an investigation into Interpol President Meng Hongwei's whereabouts, after the chief's wife reported his disappearance to authorities on Sept. 29.
What are the details?
Meng was last seen leaving Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France, for China in late September, according to Agence France-Presse. A source told the outlet, "He did not disappear in France."
A report from Le Parisien translated by NPR said Meng's wife became worried when he fell out of touch after arriving in China. According to the BBC, after two days of not hearing from her husband, Meng's wife notified police in Lyon, where the couple live with their children.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Friday that another source said Meng — who is also China's vice-minister in the country's Ministry of Public Security — was "'taken away' for questioning by discipline authorities 'as soon as he landed in China' last week."
The Morning Post noted that "under China's supervision law, a suspect's family and employer must be notified within 24 hours of a detention, except in cases where doing so would hinder an investigation. It appears Meng's wife was not informed."
Interpol acknowledged via Twitter, "We are aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei."
— INTERPOL (@INTERPOL_HQ) October 5, 2018
What were groups' concerns about Meng?
The New York Times reported that when Meng was named president of Interpol in 2016, human rights groups voiced concerns that the Chinese government might use his position to pursue dissidents abroad. Reuters said, "Beijing has tried for many years to enlist the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport back to China citizens it accuses of crimes including corruption and terrorism."
Interpol has denied in the past that Meng would be able to abuse his power, as the day-to-day operations are overseen by the Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
Meng has 40 years of experience in law enforcement, and his term as president of Interpol runs until 2020.
BBC Asia's editor, Celia Hatton, asked in an analysis Friday, "Has Meng Hongwei angered China?" Hatton explained that since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, more than 1 million Communist officials have been disciplined by "going missing" while under investigation, typically resulting in being kicked out of the party and serving time in prison.
But, Hatton notes, Meng's situation is unusual because his wife reported him missing so quickly.
"Family members of missing party officials rarely, if ever, reach out to foreign authorities, in fear their relatives will face even greater punishment," she wrote.
In conclusion, Hatton asks, "If [Meng] has really gone missing within the Chinese state apparatus, who did he anger, or what could he have done for Beijing to willingly, and publicly, forfeit the top job at Interpol?"
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