Ex-Interpol wife confronts Chinese government

LYON, France (AP) – In China, she enjoyed the privileges that flowed from her marriage to a senior member of the ruling elite. Her husband was a senior police official in the security apparatus that keeps the Communist Party in power, so confident that China sent him to France to take on a prestigious role at Interpol.

But Meng Hongwei, the former Interpol chairman, has now disappeared into China’s sprawling penal system, purged in a stunning fall from grace. And his wife is alone with their twins in France, a political refugee under 24-hour French police protection over what they suspect is an attempt by Chinese agents to kidnap them and deliver them to an uncertain fate.

From insider Grace Meng has become a stranger looking – and says she is horrified by what she sees.

So much so that she now loses her anonymity, potentially putting herself and her family in further danger, for exposing the authoritarian government of China that her husband – a vice minister of public security – served before passing away. . in 2018. He was subsequently tried and imprisoned.

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“The Monster” is how Meng now talks about the government he worked for. “Because they eat their children.”

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Meng chose to show her face for the first time, agreeing to be filmed and photographed without the dark lighting and rear camera angles she previously insisted on, so that she could speak openly and in unprecedented detail about her husband, herself and the cataclysm that tore them apart.

“I have a responsibility to show my face, to tell the world what happened,” she told the AP. “Over the past three years I’ve learned – just as we know how to live with COVID – I know how to live with the monster, authority.”

Among global critics of China – many of them now rallying against the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing – Meng brings the unique perspective of a former initiate who walked through the looking glass and came out with a transformed vision. The change is so profound that she has largely stopped using her Chinese name, Gao Ge. She says she now feels more like Grace, her chosen name, along with her husband’s last name, Meng.

“I died and I was reborn,” she says.

About Meng, her whereabouts, and her health as a nearly 68-year-old prisoner, she is entirely in the dark. Their last communication was two text messages he sent on September 25, 2018., during a work trip to Beijing. The first one said: “wait for my call”. This was followed four minutes later by a kitchen knife emoji, apparently signaling danger. She thinks he probably sent them from his office to the Department of Public Safety.

Since then, she says she has had no contact with him and that several letters sent by his lawyers to the Chinese authorities have gone unanswered. She isn’t even sure he’s alive.

“It has already saddened me beyond the point where I can be saddened more,” she said. “Of course, it’s just as cruel to my children.”

“I don’t want children to have no father,” she added, starting to cry. “Whenever children hear someone knocking on the door, they will always see. I know they are hoping that the person who comes in will be their father. But each time, when they realize that this is not the case, they lower their heads in silence. They are extremely courageous.

The official word on Meng’s fate has trickled out. A statement in October 2018, moments after Grace Meng first met reporters in Lyon, France, to sound the alarm bells over his disappearance, announced that he was the subject of an investigation for unspecified violations of the law. This showed he was the last top Chinese official to fall victim to a party purge.

Interpol announced that Meng had stepped down as chairman with immediate effect. This still infuriates his wife, who says the Lyon-based police force “was of no help”. She argues that by failing to take a stronger stand, the world organization working on common law enforcement issues has only encouraged Beijing’s authoritarian behavior.

“Can a person forcibly disappeared write a letter of resignation of their own accord?” ” she asked. “Can a police organization turn a blind eye to a typical criminal offense like this?” ”

In 2019, China announced that Meng had been stripped of his Communist Party membership. He said he abused his power to satisfy his family’s “extravagant way of life” and allowed his wife to use his authority for personal gain. In January 2020, a court announced he had been sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison for accepting more than $ 2 million in bribes. The court said he confessed his guilt and expressed regret.

His wife has long maintained that the charges had been fabricated and that her husband had been purged for using his prominent position to lobby for change.

“It’s a sham deal. This is an example of political disagreement turned into a criminal case, ”she said. “The extent of corruption in China today is extremely serious. It’s everywhere. But there are two different opinions on how to solve corruption. One is the method currently in use. The other is to move towards constitutional democracy, to solve the problem at its roots.

Grace Meng also has political ties through her own family. Her mother served on an advisory body to the Chinese legislature. And the family has already experienced political trauma. After the Communist takeover in 1949, Grace Meng’s grandfather was stripped of his business assets and later imprisoned in a labor camp, she said.

History, she says, repeats itself.

“Of course, it is a great tragedy in our family, a source of great suffering,” she told the AP. “But I also know that so many families in China today are facing a fate similar to mine.”

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