Interpol gathered police chiefs from around the world in Dubai on Sunday to select a new president, months after the global crime-fighting agency’s former leader was abruptly arrested by China on corruption charges.
The agency is holding its first general assembly since its president, Meng Hongwei, who was also China’s vice minister of public security, went missing in September while on a trip to China.
After Interpol officials demanded answers from Beijing, and after Mr. Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, revealed he had sent her an emoji of a knife to signify danger, it emerged that Mr. Meng, a Chinese citizen, had been secretly detained.
The arrest of an official with decades of experience in Beijing’s security apparatus, who was at the head of an international organization, was a bold move even by the standards of the increasingly authoritarian system under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. China eventually said Mr. Meng was being investigated on charges of taking bribes and other crimes, as part of a sweeping anticorruption campaign under President Xi Jinping.
Ms. Meng told The Associated Press from France, where she lives and where Interpol has its headquarters, that the bribery accusation was an excuse for a lengthy detention and that her husband was being persecuted for political reasons.
In Dubai on Sunday, the acting Interpol president, Kim Jong-yang of South Korea, helped open the ceremony for the general assembly meeting, which runs until Wednesday, when the vote on the next president was to take place.
A report from The Sunday Times in London said that British officials expected Alexander Prokopchuk, 56, a veteran of Russia’s Interior Ministry, to become the next Interpol president. It could not be independently confirmed by The New York Times.
As more than 1,000 delegates from 192 member states began filling the main hall, the Interpol secretary general, Jurgen Stock, explained to reporters that the agency’s rules did not allow for Mr. Meng to continue acting as president. Mr. Meng began serving as president in November 2016, and his term was due to end in 2020.
Mr. Stock said that Interpol received Mr. Meng’s resignation letter from China on Oct. 7 and that the Chinese authorities had notified Interpol that Mr. Meng was no longer a delegate to the agency.
“It sounds a little technical, but again that automatically leads to the fact, according to our rules, that he is not the president anymore,” Mr. Stock said. “We had to take the measures to ensure the functioning of the organization.”
Mr. Meng’s representatives say that Interpol accepted an unsigned resignation letter without any resistance and without evidence of his consent.
Just over a week ago, Mr. Stock told reporters in France that there was no reason for him to suspect that anything about Mr. Meng’s resignation “was forced or wrong.”
He said that he had “encouraged” the Chinese authorities to provide information about Mr. Meng’s location and legal status but that he could do no more because Interpol’s role is “not to govern over member states.”
In addition to selecting a new president, Interpol member states are to decide whether to accept Kosovo as a full member, which would allow officials there to file “red notices” for Serbian officials that Kosovo considers war criminals.
The red notices are alerts circulated to all member countries that identify a person wanted for arrest by another country. Interpol says there are 57,289 active red notices around the world.
Interpol acts as a clearinghouse for national police services that want to find suspects outside their borders. The body, however, has faced criticism that governments from countries like Russia have abused the red notice system to go after political enemies and dissidents, even though its charter explicitly proclaims its neutrality and prohibits the use of police notices for political reasons.
Two years ago, Interpol introduced new measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red notice system. As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts checks a notice’s compliance with Interpol rules before it goes out. Interpol also introduced an appeals body for those targeted with red notices.