BLOG

Did the Chinese government just 'disappear' the head of Interpol?

In a troubling development that could destabilize Interpol, an international agency responsible for coordinating law-enforcement cooperation to track down international criminals, French police have opened an investigation into the disappearance of Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, a Chinese national who formerly held senior public security positions within the Chinese government. Meng never returned to Lyon, the location of Interpol's headquarters, after visiting family in China.

His wife contacted police in Lyon, the French city where the Mengs lived, after Meng never returned from China, where he had traveled on September 29, according to Reuters.

Interpol

Meng was elected president of Interpol in November 2016 with his term set to end in 2020. At the time, human-rights groups worried that Meng would use his position to hunt down Chinese dissidents living abroad. Beijing has long sought the help of foreign countries to arrest and deport Chinese citizens accused of crimes including corruption and terrorism. 

If the Chinese government is behind his disappearance (Beijing certainly has a reputation for capturing government officials, dissidents and criminals and detaining them without alerting friends and family), this would almost certainly damage the relationship between China and the West at a time when China's human rights abuses (particularly pertaining to ethnic minority groups) have been occupying a lot of space in the public eye.

But while Meng's disappearance is certainly tragic, there's an element of humor there, to which the Internet readily latched on.

In a brief statement, Interpol said it was aware of media reports in connection with alleged disappearance of President Meng Hongwei: "This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China." The statement added that Secretary General Juergen Stock is full-time official responsible for day-to-day running of Interpol.