The wife of Interpol chief, Meng Hongwei, is seeking asylum in France for her and her children after her husband was mysteriously detained by Chinese authorities.
Her husband disappeared under clandestine circumstances while on a home visit to China last year, with the government taking weeks to admit that they detained him under bribe-taking charges.
Now, Grace Meng wants asylum for her and her twin seven-year-old boys. They currently live in Lyon, Interpol’s headquarter city.
Interpol President Meng Hongwei delivers his opening address at the Interpol World congress, in Singapore
Mrs Meng, who opts not to show her face in interviews, and the children are under police protection, having received threats.
Meng Hongwei, a former vice-minister for public security in China who rose through the ranks of the country’s feared security apparatus, was the first Chinese head of the international police organisation.
He was last heard from on September 25 as he left Lyon for China, when he sent his wife a social media message telling her to ‘wait for my call’, later sending a knife emoji.
Grace, the wife of the missing Interpol president Meng Hongwey, talks to journalists on October 7, 2018 in Lyon
This photo shows the last message sent by missing Interpol President, Meng Hongwei, to his wife, Grace Meng
Mrs Meng said she believes the knife emoji was to let her know that her husband was in danger.
Grace Meng later reported he was missing, and after several days without news Interpol said it had received a short message from Meng saying he was resigning.
China’s new National Supervision Commission, an anti-corruption agency, said Mr Meng was being investigated for ‘violation of laws’.
‘I think the anti-corruption campaign in China has already been damaged. It has become a way of attacking people who are your enemy,’ said Mrs Meng during an interview in Lyon.
She told Liberation newspaper that two Chinese businessmen, one of whom she knew, had visited her at home in early October, before China revealed her husband had been arrested, and invited her to travel with them by private jet to the Czech Republic.
Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018
They asked her for investment advice because she was trained as an economist, but she turned them down, she said.
‘That’s what I call a kidnap attempt,’ she said, adding that this was when she asked for police protection.
She also said that in late October the Chinese consulate in Lyon said they had a letter for her from her husband, but insisted she show up in person to collect it.
She asked that they hand the letter over to French police, or that French police be allowed to go with her to the consulate. She did not receive a response.
In the interview to Franceinfo and Liberation, given on January 10, she said that she had received no news of her husband or of her family back home, and that her Chinese phone and internet accounts had been blocked.
She had also received ‘strange phone calls’, she said, and was once followed into a hotel by a Chinese couple who attempted to gather information about her.
It’s not uncommon for individuals who speak out against the government to disappear in China, but the scope of the ‘disappeared’ has expanded since President Xi Jinping (right) came to power in 2013. Pictured with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left)
China’s public security bureau has linked Meng’s detention to a broader initiative to ‘completely remove the pernicious influence’ of Zhou Yongkang, a former security czar who was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.
Meng was appointed vice-minister of security by Zhou in 2004.
He was replaced as Interpol chief by South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang.
It’s not uncommon for individuals who speak out against the government to disappear in China, but the scope of the ‘disappeared’ has expanded since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.
Not only dissidents and activists, but also high-level officials, Marxists, foreigners and even a movie star, people who never publicly opposed the ruling Communist Party, have been whisked away by police to unknown destinations.