Chinese media announced on Tuesday it had sentenced Meng Hongwei, who was president of Interpol when Chinese authorities abducted him in October 2018, to 13 years and six months in prison for allegedly taking bribes.
Meng, a former vice-minister of public security in China before receiving the top job at the global policing agency, disappeared on a trip to China in 2018, sending his wife a text message featuring only a knife emoji before he vanished. Months later, Communist Party media revealed that Meng had been “arrested” on charges of bribery while visiting family and that he would not receive a trial because he had pleaded guilty to taking 14.46 million yuan ($2.1 million) in bribes while in his Public Security Ministry position.
Interpol accepted a letter from the Chinese communist regime as proof Meng had voluntarily resigned shortly after his disappearance and replaced him, offering no challenge to China’s deprivation of liberty and due process of its leader. Meng’s wife Grace has sued Interpol and applied for political asylum in France, where the couple lived and Interpol headquarters are located.
Meng became president of Interpol in 2016, the first Chinese national appointed. Under his tenure, Interpol had rejected Chinese requests for a “red notice” – a request for arrest – for Dolkun Isa, the head of the World Uyghur Congress, an ethnic rights advocacy group. China has imprisoned between 1 million and 3 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in concentration camps in the past two years.
“The First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin pronounced in a statement that Meng had confessed to all the criminal charges and would not appeal, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday. Meng was also fined 2 million yuan ($289,900),” China’s state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday. “Meng, also former head of China Coast Guard, pleaded guilty on June 20 to accepting 14.46 million yuan in bribes from 2005 to 2017 in an open trial in Tianjin, the People’s Daily reported.”
“The court has made the judgment after taking into consideration that Meng Hongwei has proactively turned in most information about the charges that the authorities were not able to obtain, and that he has admitted to the charges and that some of the bribes could not be retrieved,” the official court statement read.
Singapore’s Channel News Asia tied Meng’s case to a greater purge within the higher ranks of the Communist Party of the influence of Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo member and security chief sentenced to life in prison in 2015. Widely known as a rival of dictator Xi Jinping’s, who became “president” in 2012, Communist Party officials found the septuagenarian guilty of taking millions in bribes and leaking state secrets, conveniently removing him from the little power he had after retiring from his positions in 2012.
Zhou was widely known to have mentioned Meng and received his public security appointment from the senior official in 2004.
Channel News Asia also notes that, before taking the top job at Interpol, Meng was responsible for Beijing’s response to counterrevolutionary activities in Xinjiang, home to the vast majority of the nation’s Uyghurs. Separatist and anti-communist groups had for years staged uprisings, riots, and terrorist attacks, which Beijing has used as the reasoning for building concentration camps and enslaving Uyghurs there.
The Times and other Chinese outlets posted photos of what they claimed was Meng’s sentencing hearing. Grace Meng has questioned these photos since China first began publishing images of Meng at hearings following his disappearance, suggesting it is impossible to know if the man in the photos actually is Meng Hongwei.
When Meng resurfaced in hearing photos after his disappearance in October 2018 – seven months later, last June – Grace Meng contended it was impossible to know if the man in the photo was her husband or a body double and dismissed the accusations as a “fake case.”
“No matter how they insult him or frame him, they can’t change the facts: He is worthy of his motherland, worthy of police honor, and worthy of the people who love him,” Grace Meng said in an interview at the time. “The international community will know the truth.”
This week, the Global Times cited Chinese “experts” to accuse Grace Meng of disparaging China in bad faith to protect her husband from the consequences of his alleged actions.
“It was obvious Meng’s wife was trying to hype the case by telling stories to those media outlets that have a strong anti-China political stance, such as Radio France Internationale, experts said,” according to the government propaganda outlet. “She benefited from bribery and in the meantime could stay in France to avoid investigation, they concluded.”
Grace Meng sued Interpol at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague shortly after her husband’s alleged reemergence, in July 2019, for doing nothing to protect Meng and his family and responding tepidly to Meng’s arrest.
“A tribunal will be constituted and will decide whether my husband’s disappearance is only a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China, as alleged by Interpol, or whether Interpol itself breached its obligations owed to my family,” she said in a statement. She added that Interpol had attempted to threaten her into silence, a claim Interpol officials denied.
Following Meng’s disappearance, Chinese officials forwarded an alleged resignation letter to Interpol, which Secretary-General Juergen Stock accepted without question.
“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,” Stock said at the time.