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China confirms detention of Interpol chief Meng Hongwei

Bali: Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei who is elected as the new Interpol president at General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo credit: Interpol/IANS)

China has confirmed it is holding the missing head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei. Beijing said he was under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption body for unspecified breaches of the law, BBC reported on Sunday. Meng, also a vice-minister of public security in China, was reported missing after travelling from the city of Lyon in France, where Interpol is based, to China on 25 September.

Interpol said it had received his resignation from the presidency on Sunday with immediate effect. China’s National Supervision Commission, which handles corruption cases involving public servants, said Meng was under investigation in a statement on its website.

Meng is the latest high-profile disappearance in China, where a number of top government officials, billionaires and even an A-list celebrity have vanished in recent months. Earlier this week, actress Fan Bingbing, who disappeared in China in July, emerged with a public apology and a fine of 883 million yuan ($129 million) for tax evasion and other offences.

In a statement on its Twitter site, it said it had received the resignation with immediate effect. Under its terms it has appointed senior vice-president Kim Jong-yang of South Korea as acting president. A new president will be elected for the remaining two years of Meng’s mandate at the general assembly in Dubai next month. On Saturday, the international police agency had urged China to clarify Meng’s status, saying it was concerned about the well-being of its president. France has opened an investigation but said on Sunday it had no further information.

Grace Meng, speaking shortly before China’s confirmation of the detention, told journalists she thought he was in danger. She issued an emotional plea for international help to find her husband. On the day he went missing, she said he had sent her a social media message telling her to “wait for my call”, before sending a knife emoticon, signifying danger. “I’m not sure what has happened to him,” she said. With her back to the cameras to avoid being identified out of fear for her safety, she held back sobs to read out a statement in Chinese and English.

“We are always connected by hearts. He would support me in doing this. The matter belongs to fairness and justice. The matter belongs to the international community. The matter belongs to the people of my motherland.” Meng was elected Interpol president in November 2016, the first Chinese to take up the post, and was scheduled to serve until 2020.

He headed the organisation’s Executive Committee, which provides overall guidance and direction. Meng has 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing in China, notably in the fields of drugs, counter-terrorism and border control. After his election, human rights groups expressed concern that the move could help China pursue political dissidents who have fled the country.

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