A signal of his impending trouble, his wife told reporters, came when he texted an emoji of a knife.
Interpol said Sunday that Meng had resigned and would be temporarily replaced by a South Korean official until a new election in November - hours after China's anti-graft body, the National Supervisory Commission, said he was under investigation for violating unspecified laws.
Earlier Sunday, Meng's wife, Grace, held a press conference in Lyon at which she disclosed that the last communication she received from her husband was an emoji of a knife that he texted on September 25, the Associated Press reported. The appeal - especially unusual for senior Chinese officials - cast an unwelcome light on extralegal detentions that have increasingly ensnared dissidents and allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials alike under President Xi Jinping's authoritarian administration.
Meng Hongwei, China's vice minister for public security, was being investigated as a result of his "willfulness" and has only himself to blame, according to a statement posted on a government website.
The revelation that China's system of shady and often-arbitrary detentions could ensnare even a senior public security official with global stature has cast a shadow over the image Beijing has sought to cultivate as a modern country with the rule of law. He lives in Lyon with his wife children.
She said she hadn't heard from her husband since September 25.More news: Roberts refers complaints about Kavanaugh to federal judges in Colorado
That day, his wife said he sent a social media message telling her to "wait for my call", before sending the emoji signifying danger.
"Since its inauguration, however, the NSC has not nabbed any big "tigers", so to speak", said Dimitar Gueorguiev, assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University, where he focuses on Chinese governance.
She said she thought he sent an image of a knife before he disappeared in China as a way to warn her he was in danger. He also said he knew where she was.
Grace Meng wouldn't speculate on why her husband may have fallen out of favor, saying he had stayed above the secrecy-shrouded world of factional party politics. "This matter belongs to the worldwide community", she told a press conference with her back turned to the cameras out of fear for her safety. It was one week after her last contact with her husband. He rose through the ranks based on his own merit, she said, and remained an idealist who longed to see the rule of law established in China.
The investigation against Meng indicated that China's current leadership is eager to eliminate the political influence of Zhou, sources familiar with the matter said.More news: Venezuela says jailed lawmaker took his own life
Asked if she believed that he has been arrested, Grace Meng said: "In China, what happened, I'm not sure".
She refused to provide her real name to the AP, saying she was too afraid for the safety of her relatives in China.
"There is no place for any negotiation or bargaining with the party", the statement read. "For the husband whom I deeply love, for my young children, for the people of my motherland, for all the wives and children's husbands and fathers to no longer disappear".
Under President Xi Jinping, China has been engaged in a crackdown on corruption.
Meng was a poster boy for the Chinese government's global branding: a qualified and capable Chinese bureaucrat navigating the fine line between worldwide obligations and Chinese policy while serving in an global government organisation.
Such targets, who have been subject to arbitrary detention and made unexplained disappearances, include pro-democracy activists, human rights lawyers, officials accused of graft or political disloyalty and the estimated one million ethnic minority Muslims who have vanished into internment camps in the country's far west.More news: Paul Pogba reveals two areas of his game he must improve
In 2015, Zhou was netted in the anti-corruption drive, widely seen as a move to consolidate Xi's power.
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