china censorship

Former internet censor-in-chief charged with corruption in China

The former head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, Lu Wei, has been charged with corruption following allegations of accepting hefty bribes, according to the South China Morning Post.

Previously, Lu served as vice-mayor of Beijing and deputy head of the Communist Party’s propaganda arm. In 2013, he was put in charge of the agency responsible for controlling citizens’ access to the internet. His much-publicised 2014 visit to Silicon Valley prompted enthusiastic welcomes from executives of Facebook, Apple and Amazon, keen to court the man who held the keys to the Chinese market. In 2015, he was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, thanks to his powerful role and his closeness to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Lu became a prominent and outspoken figure who defended increasingly strict internet censorship, including cracking down on the virtual private networks used to bypass the ‘Great Firewall of China’, and shutting down the social media accounts of commentators with large followings.

“As China aspires to become a global cyberpower, Lu could hold the keys to its future, determining whether there will be sufficient oxygen for the 21st century,” his Time profile said. “Almost half of China’s 1.4bn population is online. The US is banking on penetrating the Chinese online market, but the post-Snowden world has meant restricted access.”

“Lu is imposing tougher internet regulations because of social stability concerns, which means a new generation of Chinese tech entrepreneurs may find themselves in a culture clash.”

His unexpected resignation from the helm of the agency in June 2016 prompted speculation about the circumstances in which he stepped down, such as a change in Beijing’s strict internet censorship policies. He was stripped of most responsibilities, remaining as deputy chief of Communist Party propaganda, without a portfolio.

Lu was formally put under investigation in November 2017, and expelled from the Communist Party in February. He was accused by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of corruption, including lying, tyrannical behaviour, disloyalty, duplicity, violating the party’s frugality code, improper discussion of the party, lack of self-control and taking advantage of his position for sex and fame.

Now, following an indictment submitted by prosecutors in Ningbo, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate has announced that Lu has been formally charged with corruption for having taken advantage of his position and accepting a “huge amount” of bribes throughout his career.

Two other Communist Party officials – Mo Jiancheng, who led anti-corruption efforts, and Zhang Jiehui, a leader of the Hebei Provincial People’s Congress – have been charged along with Lu with similar offences.

Lu now faces trial, although a date has not yet been announced.

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