A senior Chinese official has been elected head of global police co-operation agency Interpol.

Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei will be the first Chinese citizen to be elected as the head of the global police co-operation agency. His four-year appointment will begin immediately, an Interpol statement said.

Amnesty International feared the move could help China pursue political dissidents abroad. Meng, however, said he was ready to do “everything he could towards the cause of policing in the world.” “We currently face some of the most serious global public security challenges since World War II,” he said in an Interpol statement.

Meng’s role will see him become president of Interpol’s Executive Committee, which provides guidance and direction to the organisation.

This [appointment] is extraordinarily worrying given China’s long-standing practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International told BBC.

“I think having this particular person in charge seems to conflict with the organisation’s mandate to work in the spirit of the universal declaration of human rights,” Bequelin said.

Interpol does not have the power to send officers into countries to arrest individuals, nor issue arrest warrants. It may issue a red notice, an international alert for a wanted person.

China has in the past worked through Interpol to bring back people it wants to try. In 2014, Interpol issued red notices for some 100 Chinese corruption suspects who had fled overseas.

“Interpol does not have strong operational power, but it does have considerable influence as the world’s largest police organisation,” Bequelin told the BBC.

China will host Interpol’s 86th General Assembly in 2017.