- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PARIS (AP) - In her first comments about her imprisoned husband’s sentence in China, the wife of former Interpol president Meng Hongwei dismissed his bribery conviction as “a lie, a fake case” and said he is being punished for using his senior position in the ruling Communist Party to push for reform from within.

Grace Meng said during in an exclusive interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that her husband, a long-serving vice minister of public security, had been part of a reformist faction of China’s secretive ruling party. In response to worsening corruption, Meng Hongwei and others argued, out of the public eye and at the highest circles of power for a “modern” constitutional and election-based political system, she said.

“About four or five years ago, at the center of the upper echelons of the CCP (Communist Party), everyone discussed the problem. Everyone knew corruption was rampant, touching all officials, every department,” Grace Meng said. “Everyone was worried about the situation.”

“So what should be done? There were two opposing points of view,” she told the AP in France, where she lives. “One was that power needed to be concentrated even further, which is the method adopted now.”

“The other view was that the system should be fundamentally changed,” she added.

Grace Meng said her husband is now being persecuted for pushing that view. She offered no written or other documentary proof of what she said were Meng Hongwei’s reformist views. She previously called the case against him politically motivated but until Wednesday had never before discussed the political background in such detail.

China said this week that Meng, 66, was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison on charges of accepting more than $2 million in bribes.

A statement issued Tuesday by the No. 1 Intermediary Court in the northern city of Tianjin said Meng accepted the verdict and would not appeal. In addition to his prison sentence, he was fined 2 million yuan ($290.000.)

The statement said Meng admitted he abused his position to accept 14.4 million yuan ($2.1 million) in bribes while serving in various offices, including vice minister of public security and as a maritime police chief, often in exchange for favors and using his influence with other officials.

His wife described the charges as trumped-up and said no admissions or statements attributed to him by China’s state-run media should be believed.

“It’s all lies,” she said. “He has no right to speak.”

Meng was elected Interpol president in 2016 but vanished into custody while visiting China in 2018. It later emerged that the long-time Communist Party insider with decades of experience in China’s security apparatus was detained as part of a sweeping purge against allegedly corrupt or disloyal officials under President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian administration.

China’s beleaguered rights activists point out that as someone with a seat atop the country’s powerful public security apparatus, Meng helped build the opaque system of largely unchecked power to which he’s now fallen victim.

His wife, who has been granted asylum in France, said the corruption purge has been used as an excuse to quash reformers and she thinks her husband’s sentence is intended to scare others into silence.

But she said there are still reformers within the Communist Party. She appealed to them to “bravely stand up” and to draw inspiration from the protest movement in Hong Kong that has been challenging China’s rulers for months.

“An unfair trial is not a trial,” Grace Meng said in a separate written statement. “This sentence is not the end but the starting point for great change in China.”

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