French police investigating after Interpol president reported missing in China

MOSCOW RUSSIA ? JULY 6 2018 Interpol President Meng Hongwei at an International Cybersecurity Congress at Moscow's World Trade Centre. Mikhail Metzel  TASS

Meng Hongwei travelled to China in late September but his wife says she has not heard from him since

Meng's wife, who lives with him and their children in Lyon, southeast France, where the global organisation for police cooperation is based, reported him missing on Friday.

Billionaire Guo Guangchang, chairman of one of China's biggest private-sector conglomerates Fosun, also vanished from public view in 2015 in connection with an investigation by authorities, and then re-emerged.

PHOTO: The entrance hall of Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France.

But Meng said at the time that he was ready to do "everything he could towards the cause of policing in the world".

China has not commented officially on Meng's disappearance and there was no mention of him in official media on Saturday.

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

French police have since opened an investigation into his whereabouts.

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Interpol, which groups 192 countries and which is usually focussed on finding people who are missing or wanted, said it was aware of reports about Meng's "alleged disappearance".

Roderic Broadhurst, a professor of criminology at Australian National University, said Meng's disappearance would be "pretty disconcerting" for people in worldwide bodies that work with China, and could ultimately damage China's efforts to develop cooperative legal assistance measures with other countries.

Meng is the first from his country to serve as Interpol's president, a post that is largely symbolic but powerful in status and not without political weight.

Meng Hongwei, 64, was elected the new president of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in November 2016.

Rights groups previously said that Beijing could use Meng's position to arrest and deport its critics overseas.

Such actions would be contrary to Interpol's mission statement: "Action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

Meng was last seen in France on September 29, police sources said.

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