PARIS — The French authorities said on Friday that they had opened an investigation after the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, a Chinese national, was reported missing during a trip to China.
Mr. Meng’s wife reported him missing after she failed to hear from him when he traveled to China late last month, according to an official who is close to the investigation, which was opened by the police in Lyon, the central French city where Interpol has its headquarters.
The official, who insisted on anonymity and was not authorized to comment publicly on the case, said Mr. Meng’s wife went to the police in Lyon overnight on Friday and explained that she had last heard from her husband after he arrived in China.
The official could not elaborate on the exact date of Mr. Meng’s departure from France or on his arrival in China.
In a statement, Interpol, the main organization for global police cooperation, said that it was “aware of media reports in connection with the alleged disappearance” of Mr. Meng. “This is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China,” the statement said, adding that the secretary general of Interpol, rather than its president, was responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the organization.
“Interpol’s general secretariat headquarters will not comment further,” the statement said.
Mr. Meng, 64, has remained a vice minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security while he serves as president of Interpol, and a page describing his background and activities remained on the ministry’s website on Friday. China is in the middle of a week long National Day vacation, and calls to the ministry’s media office on Friday evening were not answered.
In April, the ministry disclosed that Mr. Meng was no longer a member of the Communist Party committee overseeing the ministry, a step that sparked speculation on overseas Chinese websites that he could be in trouble.
But official Chinese news media have not leveled any accusations against Mr. Meng, and as recently as August, he continued to receive official visitors in Beijing. After news of Mr. Meng’s disappearance spread, The South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper published in Hong Kong, cited an unnamed source in reporting that he had been taken away after arriving in China and was under investigation.
Since President Xi Jinping became head of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, he has pursued an intense campaign against official bribetaking and embezzlement, sometimes using it to imprison rivals and centralize power. This year, China established an anti corruption investigation agency with wide powers to secretly detain officials suspected of wrongdoing.
Chinese officials under investigation often disappear for weeks or even months before the government says anything about their fate.
Mr. Meng was elected president of Interpol in 2016, and is due to step down from the job in 2020. His appointment ignited controversy, with critics arguing that it would help China issue international arrest warrants in order to target political enemies.
In recent years, critics say, China has increasingly used official channels like Interpol and the United Nations to silence dissident voices abroad.
Mr. Meng previously served as head of the Chinese Public Security Ministry’s traffic control department, and he was a deputy director of China’s oceanic administration.