WUC Deeply Concerned About Election of Meng Hongwei as Interpol President
The World Uyghur Congress is very concerned about the recent election of China’s former Vice-Minister for Public Security, Meng Hongwei, as president of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) on Thursday. The move will likely embolden the Chinese government to continue to leverage the organization as a means of silencing critics and quelling dissent.
Although Interpol stands as a legitimate international organization tasked with facilitating international police cooperation around the world, a number of states have increasingly used the organization as a tool to pursue and silence political dissidents and opponents.
Meng has headed Interpol’s National Central Bureau for China since 2004 and has likely played a key role in China’s more recent efforts at targeting ostensibly corrupt officials, many of whom reside outside the country. This new appointment, however, may facilitate more questionable attempts at shutting down dissent by those operating mostly outside the sphere of Chinese influence.
The political manipulation of the organization has been felt by many Uyghur activists. World Uyghur Congress General Secretary, Dolkun Isa, had a Red Notice issued against him on the advice of the Chinese government back in 1997 which has impeded some of his work in recent years.
Isa has been unable to travel to Taiwan for his work and was also detained briefly in South Korea in 2009 and was unable to enter the country to attend the World Forum for Democratization in Asia. Again in 2016, he had his visa rescinded for his expected visit to India in April 2016 to attend the 11th Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference in Dharamsala. The General Secretary has, however, been a German citizen since 2006 and continues to travel freely to countries not burdened by China’s influence, demonstrating the clear refusal of democratic states to take China’s claims seriously.
Investigations into the use of Interpol’s Red Notice (an alert seeking the arrest of an individual wanted by a particular government) have shown serious issues with its use. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that, “Interpol Red Notices are not only being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but to round up political opponents of notorious regimes.”
The use of the Red notice can have a two pronged effect on those who are unjustly targeted. Firstly, the Red Notice can cast doubt on the legitimate work done, and character of, those who stand in public opposition to state policies. Secondly, the notice can contribute to the prevention of human rights activists from travelling abroad to meet with civil society and government representatives.
A number of other Uyghur campaigners in both Germany and Turkey have been hindered in their travel and work on account of China’s manipulation of the system. Abduljelil Karakash, director of the Uyghur Information Centre in Munich, and Abdulhamit Tursun have both had Red Notices issued against them in recent years. Beyond restrictions on the work of Uyghur activists, members of Chinese and Tibetan civil society organizations have also encountered real problems as well.
The troubling politicization of Interpol recently has been reported on by a number of NGOs as well as in the media. Among these organizations are Fair Trials, who have been instrumental in highlighting its misuse, and Amnesty International, who has also recently raised concerns about the appointment of Meng Hongwei.
The WUC therefore calls on the international community to act with vigilance in the face of these new developments. Steps must be also taken by Interpol to ensure that greater attention and scrutiny is undertaken with regards to Red Notices in particular and that its legitimacy is not exploited for political ends.