Ex-Interpol chief under probe for bribery, China ministry says

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Interpol said its missing president, Meng Hongwei, resigned as Chinese authorities said he is under investigation for unspecified illegal conduct.

A brief statement from the Chinese anti-graft body said: "Public Security Ministry Vice Minister Meng Hongwei is now under investigation by the National Supervisory Commission for suspected violations of law". His wife has been placed under French police protection since reporting his disappearance, Agence France-Presse said, citing the interior ministry.

Speaking to reporters in the French city of Lyon, where Interpol is based, on Sunday, Meng's wife Grace Meng appealed for help, saying: "This matter belongs to the worldwide community".

Hongwei's wife had said Sunday her husband sent her an image of a knife before he disappeared during the China trip, a symbol she took as his way of telling her he was in danger.

On Saturday, the worldwide police agency had urged China to clarify Mr Meng's status, saying it was concerned about the well-being of its president.

The French ministry, however, said that they did not have any information regarding that.

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political analyst said that the fact that China risked "losing face on the worldwide stage" indicated towards something "urgent", adding that had Meng been allegedly involved in an ordinary corruption case, "there would have been no need for the authorities to handle it in such a manner".

The first Chinese national to lead Interpol, his election caused controversy at the time, especially among human rights activists.

Meng is China's vice minister of public security.

A brief statement on the website of the Chinese National Supervisory Committee said only that Meng was suspected of breaking the law and was under "supervision", a euphemism for in detention.

Earlier, his wife, Grace Meng, told journalists she thought he was in danger.

She said she feared for his life.

In a sign of her nervous apprehension, Meng's wife would not allow reporters to show her face, saying she feared for her own safety and the safety of her children. "Thus, while the image of China and advancing China's capacity to take on leading offices in global organisations matter to the Chinese government, they are secondary to party considerations", he said.

His disappearance was disclosed by French officials on Friday but China had remained tight-lipped about his status until now.

China would have been well aware of those risks before acting in the way it did, Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said.

The Chinese effort to track down corrupt officials overseas, known as Operation Fox Hunt, has led to claims in some countries that Chinese law enforcement agents have been operating covertly on their soil without the approval or consent of local authorities.

His duties in China would have put him in close proximity to former leaders, some who fell foul of President Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

The statement, which came a day after Interpol formally requested that China notify the organization of Meng's whereabouts, gave no further details.