The international police agency Interpol announced Sunday that its missing president had resigned "with immediate effect" after China said the man was under investigation over unspecified legal violations and his wife told reporters that he had texted her an image of a knife, leading her to believe he was in danger.
Grace Meng told reporters that she had not heard from her husband, Meng Hongwei, since Sept. 25. That day, he sent her the knife image from an Interpol phone four minutes after sending an initial message saying, "Wait for my call." She said the call never came and she does not know what happened to him, adding that her husband was in China when he sent the message.
The Interpol statement did not say exactly why Meng resigned. However, a watchdog for China's ruling Communist Party said in a brief statement on its website that Meng was "suspected of violating the law and is currently under the monitoring and investigation" of China's new anti-corruption body, the National Supervision Commission.
Mrs. Meng declined to speculate on her husband's whereabouts.
She said he regularly traveled back and forth between Lyon, where Interpol is headquartered, and China for his job. He had been on a three-country tour, to Norway, Sweden and Serbia, for Interpol before his latest trip back to China, she said.
Before he shared the knife image, she said she had sent him a photo of two animal figurines, one of a bear and another of a horse, meant to represent their two children; one of them loves horses, she said, and the other "looks like the bear."
She said they were in daily contact during his trip before he vanished in China.
Asked if she believed that he has been arrested, Grace Meng said: "In China, what happened, I'm not sure."
Mrs. Meng was accompanied to her news conference at a Lyon hotel by two French police officers who were assigned to look after her. She would not allow reporters to show her face, saying she feared for her own safety and the safety of her children. Her voice trembled with emotion as she read a prepared statement.
"From now on, I have gone from sorrow and fear to the pursuit of truth, justice and responsibility toward history," she said. "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."
The appeal by Meng's wife for justice and fairness echoed pleas from the families of scores of people who fell afoul of the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping's rule. Some of them might have been pursued by Chinese authorities under Meng's watch as vice minister for public security.
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.
Xi, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has overseen a harsh crackdown on civil society that is aimed at squelching dissent and activism among lawyers and rights advocates.
He has also used a popular and wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign to boost supervision of the party and as a powerful weapon with which to purge his political opponents.
Interpol said the senior vice president of its executive committee, Kim Jong Yang of South Korea, would become acting president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.