The wife of former Interpol president Meng Hongwei has hired two European law firms in a bid to track down her husband, who was detained last month on suspicion of bribery during a trip home to China.
In an e-mail statement to Reuters, Grace Meng said she had received offers of help from all over the world since her husband's sudden disappearance and his subsequent resignation from Interpol, which the international police body accepted without publicly questioning or explaining the sudden move.
Grace Meng said she has hired the French law firm of Marsigny Avocats and the London-based Lindeborg Counsellors, who specialize in international cases, to help find her husband, who is being detained in an unknown location.
“Above all, I urge everyone to raise their voice in asking China to respect our family’s fundamental human rights,” she said. “His disappearance could not be for anything other than political reasons.”
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.
Paris-based Marsigny specialize in cases involving national or international corruption, misconduct, misappropriation of public funds, money laundering, and tax evasion, and advises clients on international asset seizures and extradition procedures.
Germany-based law scholar Qian Yuejun, who edits the China-Europe Herald newspaper, said Meng's detention is "undoubtedly political," and that the law firms could take steps to track him in China, as well as lobbying for diplomatic pressure to be brought to bear on the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
"Meng Hongwei is a Chinese national, but his place of residence is France, so the law firm can ask the French government to ask the Chinese government about him," said Qian, who last year led a demonstration outside Interpol's German headquarters protesting against Meng's presidency.
"Another angle is Interpol. This case is already a combination of politics and law, and these lawyers will be aware of political channels they could use," he said.
Critics of Meng's presidency said China would likely use its influence with Interpol to successfully issue "red notices" targeting peaceful critics of the regime and political opponents of President Xi Jinping under the banner of the anti-corruption campaign or other criminal allegations.
Qian said Meng's disappearance is yet another example of extrajudicial detentions and punishments meted out by Beijing to its targets.
"If the Chinese government is a rogue state, then it must be clearly described as such," he said. "Meng Hongwei was illegally kidnapped, a tragic side-effect of power struggles [in Beijing]."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told journalists that Grace Meng could call her husband "at any time," but had declined to do so. However, such calls are likely to be closely monitored, and it is unclear whether Meng has had access to a lawyer.
Outlook not good
Beijing-based rights lawyer Lin Qilei said international law enforcement has collided with an authoritarian regime, and that the outlook isn't good for Meng.
"Meng Hongwei's wife may have hired foreign lawyers and be drumming up international support, even to the highest levels of government and diplomacy," Lin said. "But she should also try to find him a lawyer in China."
Lin said such an effort would highlight the Chinese government's control over who is allowed to represent former high-ranking officials in such cases.
U.S.-based veteran rights campaigner Liu Qing said the Chinese government has used "mafia tactics" to detain Meng.
"They have just made the head of an international law enforcement body disappear into thin air, by trapping and secretly imprisoning him," Liu said. "This shows ... the Chinese Communist Party's contempt for global public opinion."
"The Chinese Communist Party has a long history of international kidnaps," he wrote in a commentary aired on RFA's Mandarin Service, citing the 2015 cross-border detentions of five Hong Kong booksellers wanted by Beijing for selling banned political books to customers in mainland China and the reported abduction of "missing" billionaire Xiao Jianhua from a Hong Kong hotel in April 2017.
"If we do not recognize and cut off the long and pernicious arm of the Chinese Communist Party as it reaches across the world, international due process and rule of law could be ruined beyond all recognition," Liu said.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.