China's Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei speaks at Interpol's general assembly in Bali in October 2016.

© 2016 Associated Press

(New York, September 25, 2017) – Interpol should address China’s misuse of the “red notice” system during its upcoming meeting in Beijing, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the international police organization. Human Rights Watch also raised concerns about respecting human rights under the leadership of Interpol’s new president, Chinese Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei. Interpol’s 86th General Assembly will convene in China’s capital on September 26-29, 2017.

Against Interpol regulations, China has issued politically motivated “red notices” – alerts seeking the arrest and extradition of wanted people – against dissidents and others abroad whom China deemed problematic. China’s record of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance, as well as unlawful forced repatriation, raise concerns that those subject to Interpol red notices from China will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

“Interpol claims to operate according to international human rights standards, but China has already shown a willingness to manipulate the system,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “And with China’s vice-minister of public security – a notoriously abusive agency – as president, Interpol’s credibility is on the line.”

Dolkun Isa, who campaigns from Germany on behalf of the ethnic Uyghur community in Xinjiang, has been subjected to a red notice for over a decade but has been unable to access or remove it, interfering with his international travel. United States-based activist Wang Zaigang, believed the red notice against him was in retaliation for his pro-democracy activism outside of China.

By choosing a top official of an abusive police force as its president, Interpol has inflicted a wound on its own reputation.

Sophie Richardson

China Director

Human Rights Watch also raised concerns about the ability of Meng, who assumed Interpol’s presidency in November 2016, to maintain Interpol’s neutrality, and to respect and protect human rights as stipulated in the organization’s constitution. Meng is a powerful vice minister in the Ministry of Public Security, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and tasked with silencing dissent. The ministry has harassed, arbitrarily detained, and tortured countless people for exercising their fundamental rights.

Interpol should explain how it will prevent abuses of the “red notice” system under Meng’s leadership, why it has not addressed outstanding examples of that problem, and how it ensures that suspects returned to China are not subjected to ill-treatment or torture, Human Rights Watch said.

“By choosing a top official of an abusive police force as its president, Interpol has inflicted a wound on its own reputation,” Richardson said. “Interpol needs to explain how it will avoid becoming an arm of the Chinese government abroad, using red notices against dissidents and forcing people back to torture in China.”