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Interpol Chief's Arrest: International Legal Standards vs Chinese Sovereignty

Interpol Chief's Arrest: International Legal Standards vs Chinese Sovereignty
China's detainment of Interpol chief Meng Hongwei and his subsequent resignation while he's investigated by his homeland's authorities have sparked serious discussion about international legal standards and the expression of national sovereignty.

The head of what could colloquially be described as the "world's police force" travelled back to his native China at the end of last month, where he had previously served in several prestigious security roles and was at one time formerly overseen by notoriously corrupt politician Zhou Yongkang. His previous boss was later sentenced to life in prison as part of President Xi's nationwide anti-corruption campaign, but Meng wasn't caught up in the probe at that time, or so it seemed.

The Quartz online news outlet reported that the Chinese blogosphere has pieced together what they claim are a series of clues hinting that the authorities might have been on to Meng since December 2017 when they began removing him from important positions that in hindsight could indicate the beginning of their corruption probe against him. Beijing has since confirmed that Meng is indeed being investigated for corruption, but the opacity that pervades the case and the curious circumstances surrounding it have generated a lot of talk about the legal and ethical implications of what's happening, especially as it relates to his resignation letter that may or may not have been issued under duress.

This has prompted questions about the supremacy of international law over a state's sovereign right to enforce its domestic one, particularly as it relates to their nationals who might occupy prominent international posts such as Meng's former role as the President of Interpol. Another issue is the presumable standard of "innocent until proven guilty" which Meng himself apparently didn't abide by after resigning in spite of not — at least yet — being proven guilty of anything, though then again it's unclear whether he did that on his own initiative. What's really interesting about all of this too is that China usually criticizes the US for putting its own law above international law, though that's exactly what Beijing itself seems to be doing here.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Brian Yeung, independent contributor at Chinese and English media in Hong Kong, and Christopher Black, international criminal lawyer with 20 years of experience in war crimes and international relations, and a commentator on international affairs.

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