President of Interpol, originally reported missing, has been detained by Chinese ‘discipline authorities’ while on trip

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Update: This story has been updated with additional information to better serve our readers. If you are returning to this article, excerpts from Human Rights Watch as well as a reference from an attorney can now be found below just after the first quoted block.

The president of Interpol, contrary to original reports, is not missing. Rather, Meng Hongwei ( 孟宏伟 ), the head of the International Criminal Police Organization, has been detained by Chinese authorities while on a visit home from Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France.

Hong Kong’s paper of record, the South China Morning Post, had this to say:

The first Chinese head of Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, is under investigation in China, a source has told the Post, amid mystery surrounding his disappearance after his wife reported to French police he had gone missing.

Meng Hongwei, 64, who is also a vice-minister at China’s Ministry of Public Security, was “taken away” for questioning by discipline authorities “as soon as he landed in China” last week, according to the source.

South China Morning Post

Seized by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection

According to Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer, Meng was taken by China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. CCDI investigates a number of potential offenses including corruption, political mistakes, and counter-revolutionary actions—that’s to say anything that might disrupt the Communist party’s control. 

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about Meng’s capacity to run Interpol neutrally under 

Human Rights Watch is also concerned about the ability of Meng Hongwei, who assumed Interpol’s presidency in November 2016, to maintain Interpol’s neutrality, and to respect and protect human rights in the organization’s activities and strategies.

As Interpol’s president, Meng plays an important role in setting the organization’s agenda.  Human Rights Watch understands his role to involve supervising the work of the secretary general, the day-to-day chief, and heading the executive committee, which is Interpol’s core decision-making body. 

Meng at the same time is a vice minister in the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and plays an essential role in ensuring the Party’s grip on power.  According to China’s Police Law, Chinese police must abide by the Constitution, which states that the Chinese people are “under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.” 

Human Rights Watch

HRW also noted that the Ministry of Public Security has often been involved in crackdowns on political dissidents and questioned whether Meng’s proximity to those incidents should warrant him unfit to lead Interpol.

Meng also serves as a vice-minister at China’s Minister of Public Security, which makes his detention by authorities even more peculiar.

According to Chinese law, a suspect’s family must be notified of any detention within 24 hours. There are exceptions to this rule when doing so would in some way inhibit the investigation. Meng’s spouse, who is currently living in Lyon where Meng was stationed, reported him as missing to the French police so it is likely she was not notified of his detention.

He has been in custody for roughly one week.

Interpol is the international organization tasked with facilitating information exchange between the 192 member states’ various law enforcement agencies. Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood, and whatever misgivings you might have from the threats they broadcast at the start of DVDs, Interpol has no authority to make arrests and strictly serves as a means to exchange information between jurisdictions.

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