A former Chinese public security officer is the new head of Interpol, an international policing agency.
Vice Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei became the first Chinese president of Interpol Thursday, reports the Associated Press.
Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk will serve as the vice president for Europe.
The two officials were appointed to their respective positions during Interpol’s 85th General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia, which concluded on Nov. 10.
Interpol is an international policing agency based out of Lyon, France which has the authority to issue “red notices,” which are regarded as international arrest warrants and can be used to identify people living in the agency’s 190 member states who are wanted for extradition.
It is the first time Chinese and Russian officials have been at the head of the agency, and some observers are concerned.
“This [appointment] is extraordinarily worrying given China’s long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin told reporters, “I think having this particular person in charge seems to conflict with the organisation’s mandate to work in the spirit of the universal declaration of human rights.”
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took office, China has been waging a war against corruption. Over 1 million Chinese officials have been punished for graft and other related crimes. The crack down has been carried out by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, rather than the police. Some critics of the campaign claim that this is about securing party loyalty rather than cleaning up government.
Interpol issued 100 red notices for Chinese officials on the run in 2014.
“Interpol does not have strong operational power, but it does have considerable influence as the world’s largest police organisation,” Bequelin further noted, “So I think there needs to be very strong scrutiny of the kind of notices that Interpol is going to issue in respect to Chinese citizens.”
“While we think it’s important to fight corruption, the campaign has been politicized and undermines judicial independence,” explained Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang. She added that Meng’s appointment “will probably embolden and encourage abuses in the system,” highlighting Russian efforts to use Interpol to go after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opponents.
Meng has said that he will do “everything he could towards the cause of policing in the world.” “We currently face some of the most serious global public security challenges since World War Two,” he explained in a Interpol statement.
“In our changing world which faces new global threats, I am fully aware how important it is for Interpol to continue to stay several steps ahead of [the criminals], and [I] intend to do everything to help Interpol to live up to its full potential,” Prokopchuk said in response to his appointment.
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