Chinese official’s election as Interpol head raises concern over terrorism response

United Nations, Nov 11 (IANS) A high-ranking Chinese official has been elected president of Interpol, the global police organisation announced on Thursday after a meeting of its general assembly in Bali.

The election of Meng Hongwei, who is China’s Vice Minister of Public Security, has raised questions about his influence on Interpol’s response to terrorism and the treatment of human rights activists.

At the United Nations Security Council China has provided cover for Pakistan-based terrorists operating against India and Meng’s authority as Interpol head could potentially interfere with action against anti-India terrorists favoured by China.

Beijing has used its veto power to block the UN from adding Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, Masood Azhar, to a list of terrorists. It has also blocked New Delhi’s request for action against Pakistan for releasing Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi from custody.

India says Azhar was the mastermind of the January 2 terror attack on the Pathankot air force base and Lakhvi planned and directed the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed over 160 people.

Alarm bells also went off at human rights organisations. Amnesty International’s East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin called for close scrutiny of notices issued by Interpol against Chinese dissidents.

“The appointment of Meng Hongwei is alarming given China’s long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” he said.

Meng will head the 190-member Interpol for a four-year term that starts immediately.

Interpol said in a statement that resolutions approved at the assembly called for collection of biometric information of terrorists whose profiles are shared through Interpol. The assembly was attended by 830 police chiefs and senior law enforcement officials from 164 countries.

“We currently face some of the most serious global public security challenges since World War Two,” Meng was quoted in the statement as saying after his election. He added that Interpol should innovate its “work mechanisms, in order to adapt to the changing security situation we see today”.

Meng’s election is another sign of China’s growing influence in international organisations. The International Civil Aviation Organisation elected Fang Liu as its secretary general last year. She is a veteran of China’s civil aviation administration.

At the UN secretariat, where a major upheaval in leadership is due when the new secretary general Antonia Guterres takes over in January, China is lobbying to have one of its nationals appointed to head the peacekeeping operations, according to diplomats here. Herve Ladsous of France is the head of peacekeeping.

Most of the peacekeeping operations are now in Africa where China’s economic presence is growing.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in)

–IANS

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