Meng Hongwei (孟宏伟; born November 1953) is a Chinese former politician and was the President of Interpol from 2016 until 2018. He once served as Vice Minister of Public Security in China and has 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing. Meng was detained by Chinese authorities in October 2018.
Meng left France on 20 September 2018 and landed in China on an incoming flight from Stockholm on 25 September. The same day Meng sent his wife Grace a picture of a knife, suggesting that he was in danger. On 4 October 2018, she reported him missing to the French police. She was given police protection after being threatened by phone and internet.
The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported that Meng had been taken away for questioning by “discipline authorities” on his arrival in China. Le Parisien, a French newspaper, added that he was under investigation in China suspected of favouring a company in a cybersecurity procurement.
On 6 October, Interpol officially demanded to know Meng’s status from the Chinese government. On 7 October, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced that he was under investigation by the National Supervisory Commission for illegal conduct. Interpol also announced it had received Meng’s letter of resignation, with immediate effect, and he was replaced by the organisation’s acting senior vice president, Kim Jong-yang of South Korea.
Meng served as Vice Minister of Public Security and the Director of the China Coast Guard from 2013 until 2017. On 18 March 2013, he was appointed as Deputy Director of China’s State Oceanic Administration. In April 2018, China withdrew his membership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
In 2004, Meng became the head of Interpol’s China branch.
On 10 November 2016, Meng was elected as President of Interpol. His election was a success for Chinese ambitions to gain legitimacy and leadership positions in international organisations. Dissidents feared that China would use the organisation to track exiled opponents.
Missing Interpol chief Meng Hongwei under investigation, China’s anti-corruption watchdog says
China’s anti-corruption watchdog says it is investigating Meng Hongwei, who heads the global law enforcement organisation Interpol, for suspected violations of the law.
- Chinese authorities say Mr Meng is “currently under investigation”
- Mr Meng’s wife says his last message to her was an emoji image of a knife
- Interpol says it has made a formal request for more information
Mr Meng, 64, who is also Vice-Minister of Public Security in China, had been reported missing after travelling from France, where Interpol is based, to China.
“Public Security Ministry Vice-Minister Meng Hongwei is currently under investigation by the National Supervisory Commission for suspected violations of law,” the Chinese anti-corruption body said in a brief statement on its website.
The statement did not specify the nature of the alleged legal violations, and was the first from China since Mr Meng’s disappearance was reported in France on Friday.
When asked about the Chinese announcement, France’s Interior Ministry said it had no information.
Interpol, which is based in the French city of Lyon, said it had made a formal request to China for information about Mr Meng.
Wife says Mr Meng sent knife emoji as danger signal
Mr Meng’s wife Grace, who remains in France, has been placed under police protection after receiving threats.
She told reporters in Lyon that she had not heard from her husband since September 25. Ms Meng said he used his Interpol phone to send her an emoji image of a knife that day, four minutes after he sent a message saying “Wait for my call.”
She said the call never came and she does not know what happened to him.
Of the knife image, she said: “I think he means he is in danger.”
She said he was in China when he sent the image.
“This is the last, last message from my husband,” she said. “After that I have no call and he disappeared.”
Ms Meng detailed the last messages she exchanged with her husband to reporters as part of an impassioned plea to help bring her missing husband to safety.
“I have gone from sorrow and fear to the pursuit of truth, justice and responsibility toward history,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
“For the husband whom I deeply love, for my young children, for the people of my motherland, for all the wives and children, so that their husbands and fathers will no longer disappear.”
Ms Meng would not allow reporters to show her face, saying she feared for her own safety and the safety of her children.
She was accompanied to the hotel where she held her press conference by two French police officers who were assigned to look after her.
Before her husband shared the knife image, she sent him a photo of two animal figurines, one of a bear and another of a horse, meant to represent their two children.
One of them loves horses, she said, and the other “looks like the bear”.
She said they had been in daily contact during his trip before he went missing in China.
In his role as a senior public security official in China, Mr Meng regularly travelled between Beijing and Lyon, France, where Interpol is based.
He had been on a three-country tour to Norway, Sweden and Serbia for Interpol before his latest trip back to China, Ms Meng said.
Mr Meng ‘resigns’ as Interpol president
The announcement that Mr Meng was under investigation makes him the latest high-profile official to fall victim to a sweeping crackdown by the ruling Communist Party.
The one-sentence announcement, issued when it was nearly midnight in China, said only that Mr Meng was in the custody of party investigators.
Soon after the statement was released, Interpol announced that Mr Meng had resigned as president, effective immediately.
It did not say why, or provide details about Mr Meng’s whereabouts or condition.
Mr Meng was the first person from China to serve as Interpol’s president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status.
Interpol’s secretary-general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency’s operations, so Mr Meng’s absence is likely to have had little operational effect.
The organisation links up police officials from its 192 member states, who can use Interpol to disseminate their search for a fugitive or a missing person.
Only at the behest of a country does the information go public via a “red notice”, the closest thing to an international arrest warrant. “Yellow notices” are issued for missing persons.
Mr Meng has held various positions within China’s security establishment, and has been Public Security Ministry Vice-Minister since 2004.
His appointment as Interpol president in 2016 alarmed some human rights organisations, fearful it would embolden China to strike out at dissidents and refugees abroad.
His term as Interpol president was originally due to run until 2020.
Xi Xinping’s harsh crackdown on civil society
Mr Meng’s unexplained disappearance threatens to tarnish Beijing’s image as a rising Asian power.
President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has overseen a harsh crackdown on civil society that is aimed at crushing dissent and activism among lawyers and rights advocates.
He has also used a popular and wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign to boost supervision of the party and as a powerful weapon with which to purge his political opponents.
Mr Meng’s various jobs put him in close contact with Chinese leaders in the security establishment, a sector long synonymous with corruption, opacity and human rights abuses.
A member of the Communist Party, Mr Meng worked with former security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.
However, Ms Meng sought to distance her husband from Mr Zhou, saying the two men did not get on.
She said Mr Zhou had sought to muscle her husband out of the public security ministry — the national police force — several times and disliked her husband “very much”.
She did not explain what, if any, relation that animosity may now have with her husband’s case.