Interpol: Rules forbid probe of ex-president’s fate in China

Secretary General of Interpol Jurgen Stock poses for a photograph at the Interpol headquarters in the southern French city of Lyon on November 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Interpol: Rules forbid probe of ex-president’s fate in China

  • Chinese authorities said they detained Meng, 64, on bribery charges, though his wife has described him as a victim of political persecution

LYON, France: Interpol’s secretary general said Thursday that the international police organization’s rules forbid him from probing into the fate of the Chinese government official who served as Interpol president for almost two years before he vanished during a trip to China.
In his first public remarks about the disappearance of Meng Hongwei, Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said he “encouraged” Chinese authorities to provide information about Meng’s location and legal status but can do no more.
Stock spoke to journalists as Interpol member prepare to elect a new president to replace Meng during a general assembly in Dubai on Nov. 18-21. Meng became the organization’s president in November 2016.
Chinese authorities said they detained Meng, 64, on bribery charges, though his wife has described him as a victim of political persecution. He was China’s vice minister of public security and appears to be the latest ranking Chinese official to have been caught in a sweeping purge under President Xi Jinping.
Stock said his organization learned of Meng’s disappearance on Oct. 5 via media reports that came out after Meng’s wife said she had not heard from him since the end of September and reported him missing.
Interpol contacted Beijing, asking for clarification, according to Stock. A high-level Chinese delegation arrived at Interpol’s Lyon headquarters on Oct. 7, reported that Meng had written a resignation letter and advised that he was no longer a delegate from China to Interpol — meaning he could no longer serve as president.
China’s Interpol office transmitted the resignation letter to Interpol headquarters later that day. Pressed on whether Interpol had assurances Meng actually wrote it or did so without duress, Stock hedged.
“There was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong,” he said.
Interpol appeared to accept the Chinese delegation’s explanation at face value and publicly announced that night that Meng had stepped down, without commenting on why or what happened.
Stock cited the structure and nature of the 192-member organization, which provides a platform for member nations to share information on criminal activities, and the vast needs it fulfills in trying to contain ballooning transnational crime. Interpol databases are queried 200 times each second by police around the world, he said.
“We are a rules-based organization. That is very important to understand,” Stock said, adding that the role of Interpol is “not to govern over member states.”
“We are not an investigative body,” he said.
Stock said he is in “constant” contact with the national central bureau in Beijing that serves as Interpol’s point of contact in China. As secretary general, Stock manages Interpol’s day-to-day activities, while the agency’s elected president has a less hands-on, more symbolic role.
“We are strongly encouraging China” to come forth with details of Meng’s case, Stock said. He suggested Chinese officials would “when the right moment comes.”
Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, told The Associated Press last month that she received threats after her husband disappeared. She and their two children are under police protection in Lyon.
“There is no doubt this is a very regrettable situation,” Stock said. “But on the other hand, we have to ensure day-to-day operations ... continue.”
He also conceded that Interpol must “mitigate negative impact” springing from Meng’s disappearance.
Interpol acts as a clearinghouse for national police services that want to hunt down suspects outside their borders. Governments have repeatedly tried to use Interpol to find political enemies, even though its charter explicitly proclaims its neutrality and prohibits use of police notices for political reasons.
Stock said that ensuring the notices are not misused has been one of his priorities.


Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

Updated 11 December 2018
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Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

MADRID: Spain’s interior minister said he would send national police to Catalonia if local authorities did not do more to stop protests like the one that shut down major highways over the weekend.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the local Catalan police of doing nothing to prevent pro-independence protesters blocking the AP-7 toll road, which runs up Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for more than 15 hours on Saturday.
The involvement of national police would be a contentious issue in the northeastern region which has its own administration and where polls suggest almost half the population wants to split away from Spain.
It would also stir memories of Madrid’s decision to send in a large contingent of national police in September last year after the Catalan government called an illegal independence referendum.
“Serious disruptions of public order and traffic security, such as those seen in the last few days, need to be dealt with by the regional police,” the minister wrote to his regional counterpart in an open letter late on Monday.
“If this does not happen ... the government will order an intervention by the state police,” he added.
Catalonia’s government would respond to the questions raised in the letter, spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said on Tuesday, without saying when or going into further detail. She repeated calls for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain’s previous conservative government took control of the region when the regional administration unilaterally declared independence following the Oct. 1, 2017 referendum.
Many of the Catalan politicians that took part in the declaration are in prison awaiting trial for rebellion or in exile.
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — who came to power in June — has said he is open to a referendum on greater autonomy and has promised to lay out detailed plans in parliament on Wednesday.
But Grande-Marlaska said the local authorities had to show they could keep order and prevent a repeat of Saturday’s protests.
“It was observed that there was no intervention (by the regional police) ... a reality that is difficult to deny,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.