Interpol gets its first Chinese president

China's Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei was picked to take the helm of the global police cooperation agency for a four-year term.
China's Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei was picked to take the helm of the global police cooperation agency for a four-year term.PHOTO: XINHUA

China's graft busters may get more help in hunting down fugitives abroad

BEIJING • Global police cooperation agency Interpol yesterday elected a senior Chinese public security official as its president.

Mr Meng Hongwei, Vice-Minister for Public Security since 2004, is the first Chinese to take the post.

The move hands Beijing another leading spot in an international agency and will likely help facilitate its high-profile efforts to track down Chinese fugitive officials who have fled the country.

Mr Meng was chosen for a four-year term at the agency's 85th members' meeting in Indonesia. He is taking over from Ms Mireille Ballestrazzi from France.

In his speech, Mr Meng promised to work together with all member states of Interpol to build the international group into a stronger platform for global police cooperation. He also said he would improve coordination among regional and global police forces.

Founded in 1914 and headquartered in Lyon, France, Interpol is the second-largest global organisation, after the United Nations, with 190 members. It does not have its own agents with powers of arrest.

China has worked bilaterally with countries worldwide, and through Interpol, to chase down Chinese suspects as part of President Xi Jinping's sweeping campaign against corruption.

In 2014, China issued an Interpol "red notice", the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant, for its 100 most-wanted corruption suspects who have fled overseas. It has said it has brought back at least one-third of them so far.

China has been seeking more international cooperation to hunt down suspects since Mr Xi began the drive against deeply rooted graft about four years ago.

Western countries, however, have been reluctant to help, or to sign extradition treaties, not wanting to send people back to a country where human rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem. They also complain China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

Critics have also said that President Xi's graft crackdown is as much about taking action against his political enemies as it is about going after corruption, accusations the government strongly denies.

Mr Duan Daqi, a Chinese national, is an Interpol vice-president whose term ends in 2018.

Other Chinese nationals have previously served in senior positions in world organisations, including Mr Zhu Min, who was deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund from 2011 to July this year. Mr Justin Lin, also known as Mr Lin Yifu, served as chief economist and senior vice-president of the World Bank from 2008 to 2012, and Dr Margaret Chan, a resident of Hong Kong which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, is director-general of the World Health Organisation.

REUTERS, XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Interpol gets its first Chinese president'. Print Edition | Subscribe