Chinese prosecutors announced Friday that they finally charged former Interpol President Meng Hongwei with taking “huge” bribes over half a year after Meng mysteriously disappeared on a trip to China.
Chinese Communist Party officers are believed to have abducted Meng, a former top Chinese police chief who became Interpol president in 2016, during a visit to the country in October 2018. Meng has not been seen or heard from since, though Interpol claimed to have received a written letter from him shortly after his disappearance officially resigning from the presidency of the international law enforcement cooperation agency.
Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, has spent the months since her husband’s disappearance warning that the regime of Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping may kill Meng while in custody. The Meng family lived in France, where Interpol headquarters are located, and Grace and their children remain in the country.
“The amounts of bribes [Meng took] were huge and he should face criminal charges in accordance with the law,” a statement from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of Tianjin, where Meng’s trial is now scheduled to take place, read, according to the South China Morning Post. Meng allegedly received the bribes while serving as the chief of the Maritime Police Bureau in China and vice-minister of public security, titles that overlapped for some time with his Interpol tenure. The statement claimed that Meng is being represented by an attorney but did not provide information on who the attorney is or any remarks the attorney made about his client. China’s legal system is notorious for preventing defendants from properly expressing themselves in court and persecuting defense attorneys who do not cooperate with the government to imprison the accused.
China has refused to provide any information on Meng’s whereabouts or proof that he has not suffered abuse as a political prisoner, which Grace Meng argues that he is. Police did not claim to arrest him until April 24, raising the question of what Meng’s status was before an arrest warrant existed for him but after he disappeared in October. A month before his formal arrest, the Communist Party of China issued a public statement confirming that it had expelled Meng, stripping him of his membership permanently.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a secretive agency established by Xi to prosecute corruption within the government, is responsible for the investigation into Meng given his status as a Chinese government official before his promotion to Interpol president.
The government of China did not initially admit to abducting Meng. Wife Grace reported him missing after she stopped hearing from him during a trip home to China. She alerted French authorities and told the press that the last message she had received from him was a knife emoji, a hint that something was about to happen to him. Meng has refused to leave France and continues to pressure the country to help bring him back. She claimed in late October that Chinese police had tried to reach out to her and set up a private meeting to give her a letter from her husband. Meng replied at the time by demanding the officers allow her to bring an attorney to the meeting later, which they did not ever agree to, she claimed.
China’s Ministry of Public Security only confirmed Meng’s abduction after news spread of his disappearance. In its public statement, the ministry said he had been detained in China and “insistence on doing things in his own way means he has only himself to blame for being placed under investigation … There is no place for any negotiation or bargaining with the party.”
China’s Global Times newspaper published an article condemning the world for questioning where Meng had gone and accusing the West of discrimination for challenging China’s seemingly arbitrary use of power.
“The Western media’s brouhaha stems from their disrespect for Chinese law and misunderstanding of China’s anti-corruption campaign. Wherever China’s legal system differs from the West’s, they arrogantly regard such differences as ‘flaws,’” the Times claimed.
Interpol confirmed that they had received a letter alleged to be from Meng formally resigning from the presidency.
A month later, with Meng’s fate still uncertain, Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock told reporters that the agency is “not an investigative body” and could do nothing to help bring him back.
“We have to accept, like we would accept with any other country, that this country (China) is taking sovereign decisions and if that country tells us: ‘we have investigations, they are ongoing, and the president has been resigning, he’s not a delegate of the country anymore,’ then we have to accept,” he said.
China has yet to allow the public to see Meng again and his current location and health status is unknown. Grace Meng maintains that her husband is innocent and the arrest is a politically motivated act of persecution.