In China, she enjoyed the privileges that flowed from being married to a senior member of the governing elite. Her husband was a top police official in the security apparatus that keeps the Communist Party in power, so trusted that China sent him to France to take up a prestigious role at Interpol.
But Meng Hongwei, the former Interpol president, has now vanished into China’s sprawling penal system, purged in a stunning fall from grace. And his wife is alone with their twin boys in France, a political refugee under round-the-clock French police protection following what she suspects was an attempt by Chinese agents to kidnap and deliver them to an uncertain fate.
From being an insider, Grace Meng has become an outsider looking in and says she is horrified by what she sees. So much so that she is now shedding her anonymity, potentially putting herself and her family at additional risk, to speak out against China’s authoritarian government that her husband a vice minister of public security served before disappearing in 2018. He was later tried and imprisoned.
Among the global critics of China many of them now mobilizing against the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing Meng brings the unique perspective of a former insider who has walked through the looking glass and emerged with her views transformed.
A statement in October 2018, just moments after Grace Meng had first met reporters in Lyon, France, to sound the alarm about his disappearance, announced that he was being investigated for unspecified legal violations. That signalled that he was the latest high-ranking Chinese official to fall victim to a party purge.
In 2019, China announced that Meng had been stripped of his Communist Party membership. It said he abused his power to satisfy his family’s “extravagant lifestyle” and allowed his wife to use his authority for personal benefit.
In January 2020, a court announced he’d been sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison on charges of accepting more than $2 million in bribes. The court said he confessed guilt and expressed regret.
His wife has long maintained that the accusations were trumped up and that her husband was purged because he’d been using his high-profile position to push for change.
Grace Meng also has political connections through her own family. Her mother served on an advisory body to the Chinese legislature. And the family has previous experience of political trauma. After the Communist takeover in 1949, Grace Meng’s grandfather was stripped of his business assets and later imprisoned in a labour camp, she said.