LYON, FRANCE - The wife of the former Interpol president who disappeared in China has revealed that she had received a threatening phone call warning of agents coming for her while she fights a so-far fruitless battle for information about her husband's fate.
In her first one-on-one interview since Meng Hongwei went missing, Grace Meng denied bribery allegations against her high-profile husband, and told The Associated Press that speaking out about his disappearance was placing her "in great danger."
Meng Hongwei — who is also China's vice minister of public security — disappeared while on a trip home to China late last month. A long-time Communist Party insider with decades of experience in China's sprawling security apparatus, the 64-year-old is the latest high-ranking official to fall victim to a sweeping purge against allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials under President Xi Jinping's authoritarian administration.
Speaking to the AP late Monday at a hotel in Lyon, France, where Interpol is based, Grace Meng said her last contact with her husband was by text message, on Sept. 25, when he wrote "wait for my call" and sent her an emoji image of a knife after traveling back to China.
After a week with no subsequent news, and on an evening when she was at home in Lyon having put their two young boys to bed, she then got a threatening call on her mobile phone from a man speaking in Chinese.
"He said, 'You listen but you don't speak,'" she said. He continued: "We've come in two work teams, two work teams just for you."
She said the man also said, "We know where you are," and that when she tried to ask a question, he repeated: "You don't speak, you just listen to me."
As a result, Mrs. Meng is now under French police protection.
Chinese authorities said Monday that Meng Hongwei was being lawfully investigated for taking bribes and other crimes that were a result of his "willfulness." Hours earlier, Interpol said Meng had resigned as the international police agency's president. It was not clear whether he did so of his own free will.
Mrs. Meng suggested that the bribery accusation is just an excuse for "making him disappear for so long."
"As his wife, I think he's simply incapable of this," she said. She said she would be willing to make their bank accounts public.
She said that she spoke out in hopes that doing so might help other families in similar circumstances.
Mrs. Meng refused to provide her real name to the AP, saying she was too afraid for the safety of her relatives in China. It is not customary for Chinese wives to adopt their husbands' names. Mrs. Meng said she has done so now to show her solidarity with her husband. Her English name, Grace, is one she has long used, she said.
A French judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AP that police are investigating the threat against Mrs. Meng, but said the probe has yet to determine whether there were indeed Chinese teams sent to Lyon.