France raises questions over disappearance of Interpol chief

The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Meng during his tour of Interpol as part of his visit to France in May

GETTY The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Meng during his tour of Interpol as part of his visit to France in May

Interpol, which groups 192 countries and which is usually focused on finding people who are missing or wanted, said it was aware of reports about Meng's "alleged disappearance".

The Lyon-based global police agency said in a brief statement on Saturday that it used law enforcement channels to submit its request about the status of Meng Hongwei, 64.

Interpol has asked Beijing to clarify the situation of Interpol president Meng Hongwei, who has been reported missing, the global police organization's secretary-general Juergen Stock said on Saturday. "Interpol's General Secretariat looks forward to an official response from China's authorities to address concerns over the President's well-being, Interpol Secretary General Stock added in the statement".

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.

While Interpol is still waiting for an official response from China, an official investigation has been launched in France.

So far, Chinese authorities have not made an official statement in this regard.

There has been no official comment from China on Meng's whereabouts.

Europe reported that he left the country on September 29. It appears Meng's wife was not informed.

When Meng was named Interpol's president in November 2016, human rights groups expressed concern that Beijing might try to leverage his position to pursue dissidents overseas.

Critics said Meng's disappearance would sound alarm bells in global organisations that work with China.

Meng became the first Chinese citizen to be elected as president of Interpol in November 2016 when he replaced French police officer Mireille Ballestrazzi. She said since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, well over a million party officials have been disciplined in some way.

Because Interpol's secretary general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency's operations, Mr Meng's absence may have little operational effect.

Interpol staff can carry special passports to help speed deployment in emergency situations but that would not have given Meng any specific rights or immunity in his home country. Also, at one time, China prized Mr Meng's lofty position at Interpol.

China yesterday remained silent over the disappearance of the head of Interpol, deepening the mystery over the global police chief's fate after reports said he was detained for questioning on arrival in his homeland. He earlier served as the vice-minister of public security in China as well as the vice-chairman of the National Narcotics Control Commission and director of the National Counter-Terrorism Office for China, according to the Interpol website.

China now has 44 outstanding red notices, mostly related to murder, intentional injury and drug smuggling, according to Interpol's web site.

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