Interpol asks China for information on missing agency president

The international police agency Interpol says it has asked Chinese authorities for information about its president, Meng Hongwei, who seemingly vanished on a trip to China.

Meng Hongwei was reported missing after travelling from France to his native China

Interpol President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of the International Police Organization in Lyon, France, on May 8. (Jeff Pachoud/Reuters)

Interpol has made a formal request to China for information about the agency's missing president, citing concerns for the well-being of the senior Chinese security official who seemingly vanished on a trip home.

The Lyon-based international police agency says Saturday it used law-enforcement channels to submit its request about the status of Meng Hongwei. It says the agency "looks forward to an official response from China's authorities to address concerns over the president's well-being."

China, in the midst of a weeklong holiday, has yet to comment on the 64-year-old security official's disappearance. Calls and faxed questions to the foreign and public security ministries went unanswered.

Meng's wife says she hasn't heard from him since he left the French city of Lyon at the end of September. France has launched its own investigation. French authorities say he boarded a plane and arrived in China but his subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

In addition to his Interpol post, Meng is also a vice-minister for public security in China.

Previously, Interpol had said that reports about Meng's disappearance were "a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China."

Possible target of anti-graft campaign

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, has suggested that Meng may have been the latest target of an ongoing campaign against corruption in China.

His duties in China would have put him in close proximity to former leaders, some who fell afoul of President Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption campaign. Meng likely dealt extensively with former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.

The Hong Kong newspaper said Meng was "taken away" for questioning upon landing in China last week by what it said were "discipline authorities." The term usually describes investigators in the ruling Communist Party who probe graft and political disloyalty.

Taking on China's rampant corruption has been a personal mission of Chinese President Xi Jinping since he became president in (Mikhail Metzel/TASS Host Photo Agnecy/Reuters)

But the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's secretive internal investigation agency, had no announcements on its website about Meng and couldn't be reached for comment.

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

Because Interpol's secretary general is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency's operations, Meng's absence may have little operational effect.

The organization 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.

Meng has held various positions within China's security establishment, including as a vice minister of public security since 2004.

His appointment as Interpol president in 2016 alarmed some human rights organizations, fearful it would embolden China to strike out at dissidents and refugees abroad. His term as Interpol president runs until 2020.