The wife of Interpol’s former chief has said she fears for her life and that of her twin boys after her husband was detained by Chinese officials, in the latest case of a forced disappearance in Beijing.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with CNN in Lyon, France, Grace Meng said she received a threatening phone call from a stranger after her husband vanished. She said the stranger told her “two teams” were coming to target her.
Grace Meng was moved to tears as she spoke of her sons, both 7 years old, saying that she had not told them what happened to their father, Meng Hongwei, and that she had kept them away from the television to shield them from the news.
“Maybe they can feel something happened,” she said. When they notice her crying, Grace Meng says, she tells them she has a cold.
“I don’t want to break their hearts,” Meng said. “I’m very – you know my heart, you know my emotion. They (Chinese authorities) like things under the table, in the dark room,” Meng said.
As she spoke to CNN, keeping her face hidden throughout the interview, her mobile phone rang three times. She said the Chinese consulate had been calling incessantly, but that she refused to meet them alone and would only do so with the media and a lawyer present.
Grace Meng’s husband had served as Interpol’s president for two years when he took a flight to Beijing in late September and vanished. Beijing announced in recent days that he was being held on suspicion of corruption. Chinese authorities have not given details of specific allegations.
When CNN asked Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang about the alleged threats and consulate phone calls at a press conference Wednesday, he said he had no knowledge of them.
“If she’s a Chinese citizen, then being contacted by the Chinese embassy or consulate sounds like something that any government would do to their citizens,” he told reporters.
Grace Meng now says she has no idea whether she will see Meng Hongwei again.
“I miss him very much. That’s why I always wake up at night.”
During Xi Jinping’s six-year presidency, more than a million officials are estimated to have been punished in a widespread crackdown on corruption, many of them mysteriously disappearing for days as Chinese officials question them.
Critics suggest that the campaign is a tool for Xi to remove political opponents and cement his power.
Grace Meng defended her husband as an innocent man and criticized the Chinese government for the disappearances and lack of transparency over the detentions.
“He is a person of integrity, he strictly abides to the law, and he has worked all his life to help build a society based on rule of law.”
When asked why she was speaking out, she said: “For all of China’s children, for all of the China’s wives, for all of … China’s daddy, mommy.”
She said that Meng Hongwei had been worried that authorities would come after him, having seen so many people vanish without explanation.
Grace Meng told of how many elderly Chinese people had lost their adult children in the disappearances, never finding out what happened to them.
“They died but can’t see their children, their son, their daughter – they’re lost. You can imagine. I have this responsibility to help the other people.”
CNN’s Zahra Ullah contributed to this report.