Head of Interpol disappears during visit to China

Interpol President Meng Hongwei walks toward the stage to deliver his opening address at the Interpol World congress. — AP

Interpol said in a statement: "Interpol is aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance of Interpol President Meng Hongwei".

According to BBC Asia Editor Celia Hatton, Meng Hongwei's disappearance seems to fit in with a now familiar pattern among China's senior Communist Party officials.

China remained silent Saturday over the disappearance of the head of Interpol, deepening the mystery over the worldwide police chief's fate after reports said he was detained for questioning on arrival in his homeland.

Meng was last seen leaving for China from Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, southeast France, in late September, the source said.

On Friday, the French police started an investigation after the Meng's wife reported that he was missing, unidentified police officials told Reuters.

As of yet there is no indication as to why Meng would be under investigation by authorities in Beijing. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Before being elected head of Interpol in November 2016, Meng was vice minister of public security in China, which critics say gave him control over the secret police.

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Sources quoted by The South China Morning Post said he was "taken away" for questioning in China.

China's recently established National Supervisory Commission holds sweeping powers to investigate the country's public servants with few requirements for transparency. Beijing's supervision law provides that a suspect's family and employer be notified within 24 hours of a detention, except in cases where it could hinder an investigation.

Following the appointment, critics suggested that Meng's appointment gave Beijing a chance to enlist more global help in tracking down alleged economic criminals, including corrupt officials, targeted by President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign.

"This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China", the police agency said on Twitter, adding it would make no further comment.

Mr Hongwei was the first Chinese official to become Interpol president, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said at the time. "Zhou Yongkang was the J Edgar Hoover of Chinese politics, he was the security tzar of China", he said.

He appointed Meng vice security minister in 2004. Beijing has in the past pressed countries to arrest and deport to China citizens it accuses of crimes, from corruption to terrorism. The Chinese law enforcement official's election as president of Interpol in 2016 was seen at the time as a victory for Beijing, and a development that lended legitimacy to the global reputation of China's criminal justice system.

But Interpol has, in the past, denied this, saying its head does not intervene in day-to-day operations, which are handled by secretary-general Juergen Stock who is German.

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