Interpol chief Meng Hongwei vanishes on trip to China

MOSCOW RUSSIA ? JULY 6 2018 Interpol President Meng Hongwei at an International Cybersecurity Congress at Moscow's World Trade Centre. Mikhail Metzel  TASS

France has opened an investigation into the disappearance of Meng Hongwei, the Chinese head of the global police agency Interpol.

"He did not disappear in France" where he lives, the source told AFP.

He was "taken away" for questioning by the authorities "as soon as he landed in China" last week, the paper said, quoting an unidentified source.

Chinese officials have so far made no public comments on the issue.

As of Friday, Meng was still included in the list of leaders on the Chinese public security ministry's website. But then, nothing. His wife, who put out a call on Friday, said she hasn't heard from her 64-year-old husband since the end of September, the official said. Amnesty International said Meng's rise to the international office was "alarming given China's long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees overseas".

Meng Hongwei 64, was last seen leaving for China from the worldwide police organisation's headquarters in Lyon, southeast France, in late September, a source closed to the enquiry told AFP.

In a statement, Interpol said it was aware of reports about Meng's alleged disappearance, reported AP. The agency added, "This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China".

Meng Hongwei, Interpol's president, boarded a plane and arrived in China, according to a French judicial official.

Since Meng continued to hold positions in the security establishment concurrently with his role as Interpol president, that may have placed him under additional pressure. He replaced French police officer Mireille Ballestrazzi and was due to serve till 2020.

When Mr Meng was elected in 2016 as Interpol president, rights groups expressed concern that he would pursue an agenda of politicised policing that targeted Mr Xi's opponents.

Meng has 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing in China, notably in the fields of drugs, counter-terrorism and border control, according to Interpol.

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