Update 12:55 p.m. EST: Updated with comment from Interpol.
French police have launched an investigation into the disappearance of the head of Interpol, after he went missing during a visit to his native China last week.
Meng Hongwei, a 64-year-old senior official in the Chinese Communist Party, was reported missing by his wife Friday after she had failed to hear from him since he returned to China six days earlier.
Her complaint was filed in Lyon, the French city where the couple and their children live, and where the headquarters of the international police cooperation agency is based.
In a statement, Interpol said that it was “aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance” of Meng and that “relevant authorities in both France and China” were looking into it. The international organization would not comment further.
Meng, who was previously China’s vice minister of public security, was elected to lead the international body in 2016, amid the objection of rights groups who feared China could use his appointment to push for the extradition of dissidents from overseas.
“This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia director at the time.
Meng has a nearly 40-year history in policing in China, according to Interpol, with a background in drugs, counterterrorism and border control. His term at the helm of the organization is scheduled to last until 2020.
Interpol provides an international mechanism for its 192 member states to notify other member states of suspects they are seeking abroad, through issuing a red notice — an international alert — for a wanted person.
Cover: In this July 4, 2017 file photo, Interpol President Meng Hongwei delivers his opening address at the Interpol World congress in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)