Head of Interpol disappears during visit to China

Interpol president Meng Hongwei reported missing after trip to China

Interpol chief Meng Hongwei vanishes on trip to China

The Lyon-based global police agency said Saturday that it used law enforcement channels to submit its request about Meng's status to Beijing, citing concerns about his well-being.

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. Officials under suspicion often disappear into the party's investigatory body, which can hold them for months without releasing information or providing them with legal counsel.

Neither China's public security ministry nor its foreign ministry have replied to queries about the president.

His appointment as Interpol president in 2016 alarmed some human rights organisations, fearful it would embolden China to strike out at dissidents and refugees overseas.

Interpol, which groups 192 countries and which is usually focused on finding people who are missing or wanted, said in a statement from its secretary general, Juergen Stock, that it had asked China for clarification.

A person familiar with the investigation said the initial working assumption was that Meng had antagonised Chinese authorities in some way and had been detained as a result.

Meng was taken into custody immediately upon his arrival in China last week for questioning by authorities, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a source it didn't identify. "It is quite possible that Meng found himself on the wrong side of the political divide in China, at a time when President Xi Jinping is intensifying his crackdown on corruption".

Here are some facts about Meng that might have a bearing on his disappearance during a trip to China.

Mr Meng is the first person from China to serve as Interpol's president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status.

As president, he chairs Interpol's executive committee, elected by member states, and is in charge of ensuring that the organization complies with decisions of the committee and the annual general assembly.

"As a matter of fact, Interpol cannot by itself investigate the whereabouts of its missing president, but it can, and in fact should, issue a yellow notice", she said. Reports from April said Meng had been relieved of his position as a member of the party committee at the Ministry of Public Security, with no explanation given. His experience ranges from narcotics control to counter-terrorism, according to Interpol's website.

The 36-year-old took to China's Twitter-like Weibo to acknowledge her wrongs, beg for her supporters" forgiveness, and apologise to "society, the friends who care about me, the public and the national tax authorities'. However, it does not have the power to send officers into countries to arrest individuals or issue arrest warrants.

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