France has granted political asylum to the family of former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei after placing them under police protection, their lawyer has said.
Meng's wife Grace and the couple's two children were granted political asylum by the French immigration authorities on May 2, her lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told AFP.
She had earlier told police she was the target of an unsuccessful abduction attempt at the beginning of the year.
Meng went missing last year during a trip back to China.
He is under investigation for corruption at a secret location "on the outskirts of Beijing" after Interpol accepted his resignation "with immediate effect" on Oct. 7, 2019.
Interpol gave no reason for the resignation, nor did it make any public comment on the detention of its president. Meng had been elected to lead the international police agency until 2020.
He was officially charged this month with accepting bribes and using them to acquire several properties during his tenure as head of China's Marine Police service, and vice minister for public security.
Grace Meng, whose Chinese name is Gao Ge, was left behind in France with scant information, other than a social media message from her husband telling her to "wait for my call," and then a knife emoji signifying danger.
She then hired the French law firm of Marsigny Avocats and the London-based Lindeborg Counsellors, who specialize in international cases, to help find him.
The Lindeborg website describes its team of lawyers as including a former Interpol General Counsel and Legal Affairs Director, and offers experienced legal counsel to those wishing to challenge "red notices," or international arrest warrants issued by the Lyon-based organization.
Grace Meng said recently that Chinese officials had presented "no proof whatsoever to back up their charges," according to AFP, which reported that she still fears kidnap attempts.
In an interview with France's Liberation newspaper in January, Grace Meng said she had been invited to leave France in the company of two well-connected Chinese businessmen, while the Chinese consulate in Lyon had tried to get her to collect a letter from her husband in person.
She also reported being followed into a hotel by a Chinese couple who attempted to gather information about her.
Overseas-based Chinese activists say China has a long track record in cross-border abductions.
According to Germany-based law scholar Qian Yuejun, who edits the China-Europe Herald newspaper, said the asylum claim was entirely necessary, given China's tendency to treat the families of criminal suspects as if they are implicated in their loved-one's crimes.
"Meng Hongwei's wife and children shouldn't be implicated, regardless of whether he is guilty or innocent," Qian told RFA. "But wives and children are affected in countries that lack human rights."
He said Gao has also put herself at risk by calling for help from the international community.
"In the eyes of the Chinese government, this is a political act, and it is seen as anti-government behavior," Qian said. "Given these two factors, she should definitely get political asylum."
Meanwhile, U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao said Meng's detention took place suddenly, and with no transparency.
"If Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol, can disappear at any time, then imagine how safe the rest of the Chinese population is," Teng said. He said that while Meng's investigation is being framed as part of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption, it is largely political in motivation.
"Xi Jinping achieves his goal of neutralizing his political opponents through the anti-corruption campaign," Teng said.
He called for greater vigilance from the international community regarding Beijing's creeping overseas influence operations.
"There are hidden dangers in the form of human rights violations when China inserts officials into various international organizations," Teng said. "The international community should have a clearer understanding of political systems like China's."
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Tam Siu-yin for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.