Interpol President Meng Hongwei Resigns After China Says He Is Under Investigation

By Stacy Meichtry in Paris and Eva Dou in Beijing

Updated Oct. 7, 2018 5:15 p.m. ET

Meng’s wife reported him missing last week to French authorities

The president of Interpol, whose wife reported him missing in China last week, has resigned after Chinese authorities announced he was under investigation, the international police organization said.

Meng Hongwei’s resignation Sunday came hours after China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Mr. Meng was under investigation by the country’s National Supervisory Commission, without specifying the allegations.

Interpol had called on Beijing to clarify Mr. Meng’s status after French officials said Mr. Meng’s wife contacted them on Thursday to say she hadn’t heard from her husband since late September when he left Interpol’s headquarters in France for a trip to China.

Scores of senior Chinese officials have disappeared temporarily in recent years as part of a high-priority anticorruption drive, with some being released later without explanation and others being sentenced to long prison terms.

Mr. Meng’s absence represented a quandary for Interpol, an agency that specializes in tracking suspects and missing people across international borders. It also raised questions about Beijing’s concerted effort to place senior officials in leading positions at international bodies.

On Sunday, Interpol named South Korean Kim Jong Yang as acting president of the agency and said its general assembly will meet in November to elect a new president to serve the remaining two years of Mr. Meng’s term.

Interpol said Secretary General Jürgen Stock, who is in charge of the agency’s daily operations, and the organization’s world-wide bureaus “remain focused on their mission.”

In 2016, Mr. Meng, 64, became the first Chinese citizen to serve as president of Interpol, following a lobbying campaign by China among the police organization’s 192 member countries. He concurrently serves as vice minister for China’s Ministry of Public Security.

The president of Interpol is largely involved in oversight of the agency, presiding over meetings of its general assembly and executive committee. But Mr. Meng’s appointment prompted an outcry by human-rights groups concerned that he would try to use Interpol to hunt down political critics of the Chinese government.

His ascension came as President Xi’s antigraft campaign was focusing on the return of fugitive Chinese officials and executives who had fled abroad. Dozens of Chinese on a most-wanted list of economic criminals issued by Beijing have either come back voluntarily or been returned by foreign governments in recent years. These returns have been heralded by the Chinese government as victories in the anticorruption drive.