Interpol chief detained in China as concerns for his safety grow

He messaged his wife a picture of a knife before he disappeared.

Meng Hongwei, president of Interpol, gives an addresses at the opening of the Interpol World Congress in Singapore on July 4, 2017. CREDIT: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Meng Hongwei, president of Interpol, gives an addresses at the opening of the Interpol World Congress in Singapore on July 4, 2017. CREDIT: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese officials said Sunday that they have detained the country’s vice minister of public security, who also headed the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

Meng Hongwei disappeared on Sept. 25, after messaging an image of a knife to his wife.

“I think he means he is in danger,” Grace Meng told reporters in Lyon, France, where Interpol is based, on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Mrs. Meng declined to show her face during the press conference, fearing for her safety and the safety of her family. French authorities have given her police protection and are investigating her husband’s disappearance, Reuters reported.


Shortly after Mrs. Meng spoke, China’s new anti-corruption agency, the National Supervision Commission, announced that her husband is in its custody.

“Meng Hongwei, deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security, is suspected of violating the law and is currently under the supervision of the National Supervision Commission,” NSC said in a statement on its website, according to a translation.

Mr. Meng resigned his post at Interpol shortly after the announcement, the organization saidNSC did not say what law Mr. Meng is accused of violating.

Mr. Meng, 64, is only the latest high-profile figure to disappear in China under the increasingly hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping, who has launched a broad crackdown on corruption that has also swept up activists, human rights workers, and political opponents.

One of China’s most famous actresses, Fan Bingbing, disappeared in July amid widespread suspicion that she was arrested for alleged tax evasion. Chinese state media confirmed Fan’s arrest in early September only to take the article offline within hours. The government finally announced a fine against Fan last week.


Xi has also cracked down on disputed “minority” regions like Tibet and Xinjiang where some have long harbored hopes of independence from mainland China. In Xinjiang, officials have swept tens of thousands of Uighur Muslims into re-education camps to strip them of their religious and ethnic identity.

Rian Thum, a professor of history at Loyola University, compared the situation in Xinjiang with the Cultural Revolution, which saw political purges, destruction of cultural treasures, arrests, torture, and executions across China.

“This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover,” Thum told the Associated Press.

Xi’s rise to power in 2013 drew effusive praise from many U.S. commentators who saw him as a reformer who would pair China’s increasing economic openness with political liberalization, making the country’s society as free as its markets.

Instead, Xi has cracked down on dissent and tightened controls on freedom of expression. Mr. Meng oversaw many of Xi’s arrests. Now his wife worries about his fate.

“From now on, I have gone from sorrow and fear to the pursuit of truth, justice, and responsibility toward history,” she told reporters in Lyon on Sunday.


Her fervent wish, she said is “for the husband whom I deeply love, for my young children, for the people of my motherland — for all the wives and children’s husbands and fathers to no longer disappear.”