Global police organization Interpol has appointed its first Chinese security official as president. As Beijing continues its campaign to hunt down fugitives abroad, the choice is likely to be controversial.
At its annual general assembly on the Indonesian island of Bali on Thursday, global police organization Interpol announced that Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei had been appointed president.
Meng is the first Chinese official to hold the post, and succeeds French policewoman Mireille Ballestrazzi who took up the job in 2012.
The move is likely to facilitate efforts to track down alleged economic criminals, including corrupt officials living abroad who have been targeted as part of President Xi Jinping's much-publicized anti-graft campaign.
In 2014, China issued an Interpol "red notice" - the closest thing to an international arrest warrant - for the country's 100 most-wanted corruption suspects who have fled the country. According to Beijing at least one-third of them have so far been returned.
China's efforts have proved to be controversial in some countries, which claim Chinese law enforcement agents have been operating covertly on their soil without the approval or consent of local authorities.
Western countries have also been reluctant to help or sign extradition treaties due to concerns from rights groups over the mistreatment of criminal suspects. Critics also claim that China is unwilling to provide proof of suspects' crimes.
Amnesty International Director for East Asia said on Twitter that Meng's appointment was "extraordinarily worrying given China's longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad." He added that the mandate of police in China included protecting the Communist Party's power.
Reform or purge?
After entering office in 2012, President Xi also launched a wide-scale anti-corruption drive that has led to the punishment of over a million officials. The extent of the operation has raised questions, however, about whether the president is leading reforms or carrying out a ruthless political purge.
Interpol is an intergovernmental organization that acts as a network connecting the law enforcement agencies of 190 member countries. It does not have agents of its own with powers of arrest.
ksb/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)