Interpol said its missing president Meng Hongwei has turned up and submitted his resignation while in detention by the disciplinary organ of China's ruling Communist Party.
Meng, a Chinese vice minister of public security who was elected president of the 192-nation Interpol organization from 2016 to 2020, went missing days earlier on a trip to China. His wife reported him missing soon after he left their home in Lyon, France, where Interpol is based.
Interpol, the world's largest international police organization, asked Chinese authorities for information about Meng. Interpol's secretariat in Lyon said it received Meng's resignation "with immediate effect," the organization said in a statement.
Chinese authorities released a statement saying Meng "is under investigation by the National Supervision Commission for alleged violations of laws." The commission is the disciplinary organ of China’s ruling Communist Party.
No further details were provided about the unspecified corruption charges against Meng. But he appeared to have had at least some advance knowledge of his fate.
His wife told reporters in France that her last contact with him was a WhatsApp text message with a knife emoji and the instructions, "Wait for my call." She said her husband's whereabouts was a matter that "belongs to the international community."
Interpol's Secretary General Jürgen Stock said the organization was concerned about Meng's "well-being" and requested through official law enforcement channels that Chinese authorities clarify his current "status."
Kim Jong Yang of South Korea, a vice president representing Asia on Interpol's executive committee, becomes the acting president until November, when Interpol's General Assembly will elect a new president to serve out the remaining two years of Meng's term until 2o20.
Giving China a pass
Despite the mystery surrounding Meng, Interpol said it remained focused on its mission of helping "law enforcement officers across the world secure their borders, protect their citizens, prevent and investigate crime, and enhance global police cooperation."
Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, wondered why Interpol wasn't pushing back harder. "If you really [are] actually concerned about proper law enforcement why are you talking only about [his] resignation and not about ensuring due process for him?" she asked.
She also suggested that Meng might be held in a secret location for up to six months under new procedures that further strengthen the Chinese Communist Party's control over its anti-corruption campaign, driven by the party's disciplinary agency.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has pushed for a new anticorruption agency with sweeping powers to bypass courts and imprison government staff without giving them any access to a lawyer.
Meng has almost 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing. He oversaw affairs related to legal institutions, narcotics control, counter-terrorism, border control, immigration and international cooperation, according to Interpol.
He also served as head of Interpol's National Central Bureau of China and as director-general of the China Coast Guard. He held several previous positions in China's public security ministry, including director of the patrol police division and the director-general of traffic control department.