Chinese official Meng Hongwei to head Interpol

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image captionChinese Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei was elected at Interpol's general assembly meeting

A senior Chinese official has been elected head of global police co-operation agency Interpol.

Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei is the first Chinese citizen to hold the four-year post. His appointment begins immediately.

Amnesty International fears the move could help China pursue political dissidents who have fled the country.

But Mr Meng said he was ready to do "everything he could towards the cause of policing in the world".

"We currently face some of the most serious global public security challenges since World War Two," Mr Meng said in an Interpol statement.

His role will see him become president of Interpol's Executive Committee, which provides guidance and direction to the organisation.

Human rights fears

"This [appointment] is extraordinarily worrying given China's long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad," said Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International.

"I think having this particular person in charge seems to conflict with the organisation's mandate to work in the spirit of the universal declaration of human rights."

However, Interpol does not have the power to send officers into countries to arrest individuals, nor issue arrest warrants. It may issue a red notice, an international alert for a wanted person.

China has in the past worked through Interpol to bring back people it wants to try. In 2014, Interpol issued red notices for some 100 Chinese corruption suspects who had fled overseas.

"Interpol does not have strong operational power, but it does have considerable influence as the world's largest police organisation," Mr Bequelin told the BBC.

"So I think there needs to be very strong scrutiny of the kind of notices that Interpol is going to issue in respect to Chinese citizens."

China will host Interpol's 86th General Assembly in 2017.

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