he long, hard fall from grace continues for China’s former internet tsar Lu Wei who has now formally been charged with corruption.
Earlier today, China’s top prosecutor released a statement, announcing that Lu had been charged with abusing the power of his own positions, including as the head of the country’s top internet regulator, to secure bribes of money and property for himself and others. The statement did not go into further detail about the charges.
Lu, 58, was the head of the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) for three years until hesurprisingly stepped asidein June 2016. More than a year later, the reason for his sudden departure was finally revealed with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announcing that it had opened up an investigation into Lu for “serious violations of party discipline.”
In February of this year, the CCDI released an unusually harshly-worded statement about Lu’s case while announcing that he had been expelled from the Communist Party. The statement provided a very colorful laundry list of offenses, describing Lu as a “shameless” man with a “swollen head” and an “arbitrary and tyrannical” leadership style who liked to frequent private clubs and trade sex for power while building his personal fame.
Indeed, for a bit, Lu was perhaps the second most well-known cadre at the top of China’s government. In 2015, he made Time’s list of the 100 Most Influential People following a high-profile tour of the US in December 2014, during which he met with a number of American tech titans. At his visit to the Facebook offices in Menlo Park, Mark Zuckerberginfamously showed Lu his copy of Xi Jinping’sThe Governance of China, praising the Chinese president’s book, adding that he had bought copies for his colleagues as well.
Lu was born in eastern Anhui province and managed to rise up the ranks by working at China’s officialXinhuanews agency for two decades before going on to become a Beijing vice-mayor in 2011, overseeing the city’s publicity department. A strong proponent of so-called “internet sovereignty,” Lu won the job of China’s top internet regulator by arguing that the party urgently needed to enforce more control on the internet and, in particular, social media, initiating an unprecedented crackdown on online discussion that has continued with his successor.
At the Wuzhen Internet Conference in 2015, Ludenied the existence of internet censorship in China, saying: “It is a misuse of words if you say ‘content censorship.’ But no censorship does not mean there is no management. The Chinese government learned how to manage the internet from developed Western countries, we have not learned enough yet.”
Appropriately enough, discussion of Lu’s downfall last yearwas censored on Chinese social media.