• Ex-Interpol leader's wife: Everybody in China is at risk

    By: JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press

    Updated:
    LYON, France (AP) - The wife of the former Interpol president who is being detained in China on bribery charges says she's been contacted by Chinese diplomats, who have told her they're holding a letter from him for her.

    Grace Meng says, however, that she'll only agree to meet Chinese officials if a lawyer and reporters are present. She says Chinese officials haven't responded since she told them that condition.

    She says she also asked that the letter from her husband, Meng Hongwei, be given to French police, so they can give it to her. She has been living under French police protection in the French city of Lyon, where Interpol is headquartered, since she reported that her husband went missing while on a trip to China in late September.

    "They said my husband wrote a letter to me," she said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press in Lyon. "They said they can only give it to me alone."

    Grace Meng said the disappearance and suspected slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, wasn't a factor in her refusal to meet unaccompanied with Chinese officials. However, she made clear that she finds them impossible to trust, calling them "cruel."

    China says Meng Hongwei, 64, is under investigation for graft and possibly other crimes.

    Meng was China's vice minister of public security while also leading Interpol, and a longtime Communist Party insider with decades of experience in China's sprawling security apparatus. He appears to be the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping purge under authoritarian Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    During the AP interview, one of the very few occasions when she has agreed to be filmed, Grace Meng wept as she recounted a dream she had about her husband the previous night.

    "I'm sad, I feel hopeless but angry, too, even hate," she said. "You can imagine when your children, when your sons ask: 'Where's Daddy?' How can I answer? Who wants their children to grow up (when) they have no daddy?"

    Grace Meng has refused in repeated interviews and phone calls with the AP to provide her real name, saying she is concerned for the safety of relatives in China. It is not customary for Chinese wives to adopt their husbands' names. Grace Meng says she has done so now to show her solidarity with her husband. Her English name, Grace, is one she has long used, she says.

    Grace Meng says she cannot believe the bribery accusation against her husband and claims he's the target of "political persecution."

    "The term anti-corruption in China has become a synonym for crimes that are unjustifiable," she said.

    China's move to secretly detain the Interpol president, an official with international standing, was an unusually audacious action even for an administration that under Xi's leadership has sought to assert its interests aggressively on the global stage.

    Grace Meng says she is speaking out about her husband's case, at risk to herself, not just to defend him but also to highlight the fate of others who have disappeared into China's opaque police system.

    "Everybody in China is at risk," she said. "Everyone should be concerned that something like this could happen to them."

    ___

    Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.

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