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Chinese minister elected as Interpol president

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JAKARTA: A Chinese security official was elected president of Interpol on Thursday for the first time, a potentially controversial choice as Beijing pursues a campaign to hunt down fugitives abroad. 

Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei was chosen as the new head of the global police organisation at its annual general assembly on the Indonesian island of Bali, France-headquartered Interpol announced.

He is the first Chinese official to hold the post, China’s official Xinhua news agency said, and takes over from Frenchwoman Mireille Ballestrazzi.

The move could provide a boost to China’s efforts to track down alleged economic criminals, including corrupt officials, living abroad, who have been targeted as part of President Xi Jinping’s much-publicised anti-graft campaign.

Beijing has been seeking more international help for the drive, which has netted large numbers of fugitives.

However it has also proved controversial in some countries that say Chinese law enforcement agents have been operating covertly on their soil without the approval or consent of local authorities.

After taking power in 2012, Xi launched a massive anti-corruption drive that has led to the punishment of over a million officials, although it has raised questions about whether the president is a reformer or is carrying out a ruthless political purge.

Interpol is an intergovernmental organisation that acts as a network connecting the law enforcement agencies of its 190 member countries. It does not have agents of its own with powers of arrest.

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