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Meng's wife had contacted police in Lyon, the French city where the worldwide police agency is based, and reported Meng missing, after not hearing from him since September 25.

Early in April, Meng had already lost his seat on China's Public Security Ministry's Communist Party Committee (its real decision-making body), although he is still listed on the ministry's website as a deputy minister.

Meng's wife, who has remained in Lyon with their children according to police sources, was receiving protection, France's interior ministry said on October 6.

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.

Meng had lived with his wife and two children in Lyon since being elected Interpol president in 2016.

His family lost touch with him after he travelled from France, where Interpol is based, to China.

She says she has had no further contact with him since he sent the message on September 25, and added that four minutes before Meng shared the image, he sent a message saying, "wait for my call". She says he sent an image of knife that day, she thinks as a warning he was in danger.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said, "Interpol has requested through official law enforcement channels clarification from China's authorities on the status of Interpol President Meng Hongwei".

A source familiar with the investigation said the working assumption was that the 64-year-old had antagonised Chinese authorities and had been detained as a result.

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After China admitted it had Meng in custody, the paper quoted Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan, who said: "I guess something urgent must have happened".

Meng's seizure on suspicion of corruption is an ironic reversal for a Chinese official whose ascent to the top of Interpol was supposed to aid Beijing's efforts in catching corrupt runaway officials.

It was unclear how Meng, the first Chinese national to lead Interpol, could have fallen foul of the Chinese authorities.

Mrs Meng would not speculate on what might have happened to her husband.

Local French media reported that Meng's wife had issued a brief statement from a hotel in Lyon, in which she expressed her concerns over the situation.

She said he regularly traveled back and forth between Lyon and China for his job.

Interpol still hasn't confirmed whether or not he was visiting China on agency business.

Xi, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has overseen a harsh crackdown on civil society that is aimed at squelching dissent and activism among lawyers and rights advocates.

The CCDI has longed used a secret detention mechanism called shuanggui (双规), but only on Party members.


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