Interpol and the future for Chinese representation in global bodies


Last Friday, October 5, the head of Interpol, the international criminal police organization, was reported missing (Access paywall). Mèng Hóngweǐ 孟宏伟 was an appointee from China to the organization since 2016, and he held the position concurrently with his role as vice minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

It turned out that China had decided to take international policing into its own hands, and detained one of its top cops — reportedly for accepting bribes (Access paywall) — without bothering to notify the international organization that he headed.

  • Meng’s wife, identified by the alias Grace Meng, remains in France, where Interpol is based, and has received a threatening and mysterious phone call, AP reports.
  • She has been placed under police protection, and “French authorities are still trying to determine whether China did indeed, as the mysterious caller menaced, dispatch agents to get to Grace Meng.”
  • Why are Chinese authorities so determined to silence this family? We don’t know for sure, but respected political commentator Zhāng Lìfán 章立凡 told the Guardian yesterday, “It’s likely related to a power struggle.”
  • Chinese authorities have been trying to paint Meng as being related to Zhōu Yǒngkāng 周永康, China’s fallen former chief of MPS and apparent archenemy of president Xi Jinping, though Zhang noted on Twitter (in Chinese) that Meng was appointed to Interpol after Zhou had already been taken down.
  • Zhang also points out that the MPS statement on Meng (in Chinese) tellingly didn’t use the usual term for “to violate discipline” (违纪 wéijì), which is standard for real corruption cases.

The case badly damages China’s international reputation as it tries to seek more representation in global organizations like Interpol, analysts told AFP. But Cheng Xiaohe, an international relations professor at Renmin University, says that it shows China “does not care too much about saving face in anti-corruption matters,” and instead wants to tell its own people that “regardless of what damage is done to China’s international image, the Chinese Communist Party and government will not be soft on corruption, and will punish those who deserve to be punished.”