Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Years later, the wife of an imprisoned former high-ranking official speaks out against the Chinese government

LYON, France (AP) – In China, she enjoyed privileges stemming from being married to a senior member of the ruling elite. Her husband was a high-ranking police officer in the security apparatus that holds the Communist Party in power and trusted so much that China sent him to France to take up a prestigious position at Interpol.

But Meng Hongwei, the former president of Interpol, has now melted into China’s sprawling penitentiary system, overwhelmed by the purge. And his wife was left alone with her twin boys in France, a political refugee guarded by French police around the clock after what she suspects was an attempt by Chinese agents to kidnap and betray them to an unknown fate.

From an insider, Grace Maine has become an outside observer – and says that she is horrified at what she sees.

So much so that she is now giving up her anonymity, potentially putting herself and her family at additional risk to oppose the authoritarian Chinese government that her husband – deputy minister of public security – served before disappearing in 2018. Later he was tried in prison.

“The monster” is how Grace Maine now speaks of the government for which her husband worked. “Because they eat their children.”

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Maine decided to show her face for the first time, agreeing to shoot and photograph without the dark lighting and camera angles she had previously insisted on so that she could speak openly and in unprecedented detail about her husband, herself, and the cataclysm that is theirs. tore apart.

“I have to show my face, tell the world what happened,” she told AP. “Over the past three years, I have learned – just as we know how to live with COVID – I know how to live with a monster, power.”

Among China’s global critics – many of them now mobilizing against the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics – Meng brings a unique perspective to a former insider who went through and out of the mirror, changing his mind. The change is so great that she practically stopped using her Chinese name Gao Ge. She says that she now feels more like Grace, her chosen name, with her husband’s last name, Maine.

“I died and was born again,” she says.

About Maine, his whereabouts and health as a soon-to-be 68-year-old prisoner, she is completely in the dark. Their last communication was two text messages that he sent on September 25, 2018 during a business trip to Beijing. The first one said: “Wait for my call.” Four minutes later, a kitchen knife smiley followed, clearly signaling danger. She thinks he probably sent them from his office at the Ministry of Public Security.

Since then, she says that she has not maintained any contact with him and that numerous letters sent by her lawyers to the Chinese authorities have gone unanswered. She’s not even sure he’s alive.

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“It has already saddened me to the point where I can become even more sad,” she said. “Of course, it’s just as cruel to my children.”

“I don’t want the children not to have a father,” she added, crying. “When children hear a knock on the door, they always go to look. I know that they hope that the person who goes inside will be their father. But every time they realize that this is not so, they silently lower their heads. They are very brave. ”

Official rumors about Meng’s fate spread boringly. In a statement in October 2018, just seconds after Grace Maine first met with reporters in Lyon, France to raise the alarm over his disappearance, it was announced that he was under investigation for unspecified violations of the law. … This indicated that he was the last high-ranking Chinese official to fall victim to a party purge.

Interpol immediately announced that Maine had stepped down from the presidency. This still infuriates his wife, who says the police in Lyon “did nothing to help.” She argues that without taking a more solid position, the global organization that works on common law enforcement issues has only encouraged Beijing’s authoritarian behavior.

“Can a forcibly disappeared person voluntarily write a letter of resignation?” she asked. “Can a police organization turn a blind eye to such a typical criminal offense?”

In 2019, China announced that Meng had been stripped of his Communist Party membership. It stated that he had abused his power to satisfy the “extravagant lifestyle of his family,” and allowed his wife to use his authority for personal gain. In January 2020, the court announced that he was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison on charges of accepting bribes worth more than $ 2 million. The court found him guilty and expressed regret.

His wife has long argued that the charges were fabricated and that her husband was purged because he used his prominent position to bring about change.

“It’s a fake. This is an example of how a political disagreement turns into a criminal case, ”she said. “The level of corruption in China today is extremely serious. It’s everywhere. But there are two different opinions on how to fight corruption. One of them is the method that is being used now. The other is to move towards constitutional democracy, to solve fundamental problems. ”

Grace Maine also has political connections through her family. Her mother worked on an advisory body to the Chinese legislature. And the family has previous experiences of political trauma. According to her, after the communist coup in 1949, Grace Maine’s grandfather was stripped of his business assets and later imprisoned in a labor camp.

History repeats itself, she said.

“Of course, this is a great tragedy in our family, a source of great suffering,” she told AP. “But I also know that so many families in China today are having a fate similar to mine.”

Nation World News Desk
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