French police are investigating the disappearance of Interpol chief, Meng Hongwei, who was reported missing after travelling to his native China. Picture: Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters

Paris - Interpol says it has received the resignation of Meng Hongwei, the Chinese president of the international police organization who went missing one week ago.

A statement released by Interpol on Sunday said that Meng had resigned with immediate effect.

Senior Vice President Kim Jong Yang of South Korea will become acting president, pending the election of a successor. The statement, which came a day after Interpol formally requested that China notify the organization of Meng's whereabouts, gave no further details.

The announcement came shortly after China's top anti-corruption body said that Meng was under investigation in that country, ending days of speculation about his whereabouts but still leaving many questions unanswered.

A brief statement on the website of the Chinese National Supervisory Committee said only that Meng, 64, was suspected of breaking the law and was under "supervision," a euphemism for detention.

Speaking to reporters in the French city of Lyon, where Interpol is based, on Sunday, Meng's wife Grace Meng appealed for help, saying: "This matter belongs to the international community."

She said he sent her a social media message telling her to "Wait for my call" on September 25, the day he set off for China from Lyon, according to the news agency AFP.

Minutes later, he sent his last message to her, an emoji of a knife, which she said she believed meant he was in danger. "I'm not sure what has happened to him," she said.

Fearing for her safety, she spoke with her back to reporters and refused to be photographed. She has been placed under police protection, AFP reported citing the Interior Ministry, after receiving threats on social media and per telephone.

She reported her husband missing to French authorities last week and French prosecutors said on Friday they had launched an investigation.

Meng is also a vice minister of public security in China. He was elected president of Interpol in 2016 and was due to serve until 2020, according to the organization's website.

The first Chinese national to lead Interpol, his election caused controversy at the time, especially among human rights activists. Amnesty International accused Beijing of attempting to use the police organization to hunt for Chinese dissidents and activists.

It was unclear how Meng could have fallen foul of the Chinese authorities.

His case draws parallels with other high-profile detentions in China, where President Xi Jinping has launched a massive anti-corruption drive since taking office five years ago.

The campaign has since punished over 1 million officials of varying stature, who are often suddenly detained without warning only to emerge later in detention. 

It is highly irregular, however, for the head of an international organization of the size and distinction of Interpol to disappear. 

Critics have accused Xi of using the anti-corruption campaign to remove rivals and cement his grip on power.

Meng's case follows another major disappearance in China of actress Fan Bingbing, who was out of the public eye for months until it was revealed last week that she had been under investigation by tax authorities.