LYON, France — The wife of Interpol’s president made an impassioned plea Sunday for help in bringing her missing husband to safety, saying she thinks he sent an image of a knife before he disappeared in China as a way to warn her he was in danger.

Grace Meng detailed the last messages she exchanged with her husband, Interpol President Meng Hongwei, to reporters as part of her unusual appeal. Meng is China’s vice minister for public security, and regularly traveled between Beijing and Lyon, France, where Interpol is based.

His wife’s plea underscored how China’s system of shady and often-arbitrary detentions can ensnare even a senior public security official with international standing, leaving loved ones uninformed and in a panic.

In news that could confirm her fears, China announced less than an hour after she spoke Sunday that Meng was under investigation on suspicion of unspecified legal violations, making him the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping crackdown by the ruling Communist Party.

Interpol then announced that Meng had resigned as president, effective immediately. It did not say why, or provide details about Meng’s whereabouts or condition. He was elected to lead the international police agency in 2016 and his term was not due to end until 2020.

Meng’s unexplained disappearance in China, which had prompted the French government and Interpol to make their concerns known publicly, threatened to tarnish Beijing’s image as a rising Asian power. The one-sentence announcement about his being the focus of an investigation, issued when it was nearly midnight in China, said only that Meng was in the custody of party investigators.


The disciplinary organ of China’s ruling Communist Party said in a brief statement on its website that Meng was “suspected of violating the law and is currently under the monitoring and investigation” of China’s new anti-corruption body, the National Supervision Commission.

The statement was the first official word on the fate of 64-year-old Meng since French judicial officials said he was missing Friday. His wife first learned about the party statement from The Associated Press; she said she was struggling to believe what it said.

“This is political ruin and fall!” she wrote in a text message to the AP. “I can’t believe because the rule of law (in) China is his lifelong pursuit.”

Earlier Sunday, at an emotional press conference in Lyon, Grace Meng spoke for the first time about his disappearance.

“From now on, I have gone from sorrow and fear to the pursuit of truth, justice and responsibility toward history,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.

The appeal by Meng’s wife echoed pleas from families of scores of people who fell afoul of the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping’s rule. Some of them might even have been pursued by Chinese authorities under Meng’s watch.

Such targets, who have been subject to arbitrary detention and made unexplained disappearances, include pro-democracy activists, human rights lawyers, officials accused of graft or political disloyalty and the estimated one million ethnic minority Muslims who have vanished into internment camps in the country’s far west.

Grace Meng said she hadn’t heard from her husband since Sept. 25. Using his Interpol mobile phone, he sent her the emoji image of a kitchen knife that day, four minutes after he sent a message saying: “Wait for my call.”

She said the call never came and she does not know what happened to him.

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