FALL FROM GRACE

“Shameless” and “two-faced”: China’s astonishing rebuke of its former internet czar

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

China’s former internet czar was expelled from the Communist Party and will be prosecuted for corruption, the party’s top graft-busting agency said yesterday (Feb. 13).

Lu Wei, 58, has headed China’s powerful Cyberspace Administration since its launch in 2014, until he unexpectedly stepped down from his post in June 2016. He was put under investigation for corruption in November. Yesterday’s announcement (link in Chinese) from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI)—the body tasked with investigating corruption—provided an exceptionally long list of his misdeeds ranging from trading power for sex to deceiving the top leadership. Described as “shameless,” “tyrannical,” and “two-faced,” Lu faces accusations harsher than any other officials nabbed in president Xi Jinping’s ruthless anti-corruption campaign, which started when he took power in 2012.

An usually high-profile party official, Lu was the face of China’s vicious crackdown on the internet and free speech in the last few years. The CCDI statement reads as a rebuke of his flamboyance and swagger in the way he dealt with foreign tech giants including Apple and Facebook, and how he promoted China’s controlled vision for the global internet. In 2014 when asked by a reporter why foreign sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, Lu infamously said: “We have never shut down any foreign sites. Your website is on your home soil. How can I go over to your home and shut it down?” Later that year, Lu toured Facebook’s offices in California, during which CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed him a copy of Xi’s book on communism, and said he had bought it for his employees.

Here’s a translation of all the allegations against Lu included in the statement:

Investigations found that Lu Wei severely violated the party’s political discipline and rules, and covertly refused to implement the party’s policies while appearing to be obedient. He was defiant of rules, acted wantonly, and made irresponsible comments on the central leadership. He obstructed the central leadership’s discipline inspections. With inflated ambition, he abused public resources for personal purposes, and unscrupulously sought personal influence. With evil conduct, he framed others anonymously and formed “small cliques.” He severely violated the central leadership’s eight-point regulations and discipline in relation with the public. He frequented private clubs, sought privileges waywardly, and acted arbitrarily and tyrannically. He violated organizational discipline, failing to speak the truth during investigations. He violated anti-graft discipline, trading power for personal gains. He violated work discipline, selectively implementing the central leadership’s cyberspace management strategy. He traded power for sex and was shameless. He took advantage of his post to seek profits for others and accepted a huge amount of property. He is suspected of bribery-taking.

As a top-level official of the party, Lu Wei has lost all his ideals and beliefs and has forgotten the party spirit and principles. He has betrayed each and every important political requirement and major discipline for party members. He is a typical two-faced person. He showed no signs of restraint after the party’s 18th congress. His wrongdoings are of a grave nature and resulted in a strong public outcry. He is a good example of having both political and economic wrongdoings. His case is extremely bad and particularly serious.

A former journalist with the official Xinhua news agency, Lu is the first senior official to fall from grace since Xi secured his second five-year-term in a leadership reshuffle event in October. The CCDI has billed the move as a strong signal that Xi’s anti-graft drive will not relent moving forward.

The latest statement on Lu came on the same day as China’s top prosecutor announced bribery charges against former Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai—once seen as a potential successor to Xi—who was put under CCDI investigation in July.

China’s crackdown on the internet has only worsened since Lu stepped down. Throughout the past year, Beijing placed more restrictions on social media platforms, cracked down on an essential tool that helps citizens skirt online censorship, and implemented a tough cybersecurity law that forces foreign companies to store data from their Chinese customers within mainland China’s borders. More recently, censors have even gone after subcultures that are thriving online, including homegrown hip-hop.

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