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China may halt French police cooperation over Interpol case: source

Meng Hongwei, the former president of Interpol who went missing in September 2018 during a trip to China, has since pleaded guilty to Chinese bribery charges
Meng Hongwei, the former president of Interpol who went missing in September 2018 during a trip to China, has since pleaded guilty to Chinese bribery charges AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

Chinese officials are threatening to stop all police cooperation with France after it gave political asylum to the wife of the former Interpol chief, a Chinese national now languishing in prison on charges of bribery, a French source close to the matter said Monday.

"There hasn't been any official request to suspend the cooperation but an informal expression of intent," the source told AFP.

French daily Le Monde reported over the weekend that the security attache at France's embassy in Beijing had been told of the impending move.

Tensions between Paris and Beijing have been fraught since the September 2018 disappearance of Interpol president Meng Hongwei, shortly after he left for China from the international police agency's headquarters in Lyon, southeast France.

After several days with no word on his whereabouts, China disclosed that he had been arrested, and in June a court in northern China revealed that Meng had pleaded guilty to bribery.

His wife Grace and their two children, who have remained in France, were given police protection after she expressed concerns about kidnapping attempts, and later applied for asylum, a request that was granted in May.

The French Interior Minister declined to comment to AFP on the asylum decision, which a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman denounced as an "abuse of French legal procedures."

The Chinese court said in June that Meng, a former vice minister of public security, had pleaded guilty to accepting $2.1 million in bribes from 2005 to 2017.

Critics believe he got caught up in an anti-graft campaign which they accuse President Xi Jinping of using to remove his political enemies.

A few weeks after his disappearance, Interpol was forced to accept Meng's resignation as its first Chinese president.

His wife, Grace, sued the agency last month, saying it had failed to protect her family and was "complicit in the internationally wrongful acts of its member country China." Interpol has rejected the allegations.

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