Why Interpol must keep up the pressure in the case of its missing ex-president Meng Hongwei
- Billy Huang says China’s announcement that it has detained Meng raises more questions than answers and Interpol must not let the matter rest
- The case shakes faith in the international policing organisation and is reminiscent of its murky past during the second world war, he says
The disappearance of Interpol’s president, Meng Hongwei, and the Chinese government’s subsequent announcement that he had been detained, stunned the world. On October 7, Interpol issued a media statement saying that the organisation had received Meng’s resignation with immediate effect.
The statement also said: “The Interpol general secretariat, under the leadership of Secretary General Jürgen Stock, and its National Central Bureaus around the world remain focused on their mission: to help law enforcement officers across the world secure their borders, protect their citizens, prevent and investigate crime, and enhance global police cooperation.”
If Interpol means what it says, it needs to address the world’s concerns before its 87th general assembly session in Dubai in November, at which a new president will be elected for the remaining two years of the current mandate (until 2020).
First of all, how did Interpol receive Meng’s resignation and how did it make sure it was not made under duress and intimidation? This concern is totally warranted since Meng’s wife Grace reported that her husband was missing to the French police, instead of seeking the help of China’s Ministry of Public Security, of which Meng is a vice-minister.
Secondly, as an international organisation claiming on its homepage that its goal is “to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place”, Interpol needs to press the Chinese authorities to guarantee due process and the rule of law in Meng’s case, and the safety of his family members who still do not have any information about his whereabouts and well-being.
Watch: Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei detained in China
Even more worrisome is that Grace Meng reportedly received a phone call after she made the case public telling her that two work teams were on their way from China “just for you” and “we know where you are”. If Interpol cannot guarantee the safety of its president’s family, what else can we expect of it?
Interpol also claims adherence to the rule of neutrality, saying that “action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and that its constitution prohibits “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”.
What the Chinese authorities have done so brazenly to Meng shows clearly that they put the politically driven rule of the Communist Party above the law and any international norm of human rights.
Interpol may also need to join hands with other international organisations like the United Nations to ensure China fulfils its obligations to the international community.
In an interview with the French newspaper Courrier international on October 16, Grace Meng revealed that when Interpol inquired about Meng Hongwei’s disappearance with China’s Ministry of Public Security, the head of its international cooperation apparatus said he was merely on holiday.
Apparently, there was a plot behind Meng’s disappearance that warrants further investigation independent of the Chinese government.
Last but not least, if Meng is guilty of crimes as the Chinese government has claimed, how did he get the top job at Interpol in the first place, an organisation expected to maintain the highest ethical and legal standards in hiring?
Meng’s case casts a pall over Interpol’s image, posing an unprecedented challenge to its reputation and public trust in the organisation. This incident is reminiscent of Interpol’s shady past during the second world war when it shared its headquarters with the Gestapo.
Two war criminals, Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, and Ernst Kalternburner, chief of the Reich Main Security Office, worked as Interpol presidents.
The Nazi affiliation went on after the war when Interpol elected Paul Dickopf as its president in 1968, a position he held until 1972. Dickopf had been a Schutzstaffel (SS) officer during the war. Are there no checks and balances within Interpol?
In a speech at an Interpol conference in Dublin on May 16, Meng Hongwei pledged to “adhere to neutral and apolitical position on major issues” and admitted objectivity and fairness are very serious issues faced by Interpol.
He even quoted the great Chinese philosopher Mencius as saying, “A just cause enjoys abundant support, while an unjust cause finds little”. Let’s pursue justice and fairness for Meng himself first. Interpol should not shy away from the cause.
Billy Huang is a media veteran who served leading media outlets in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and America for more than 20 years. [email protected]