China’s prosecutors charge former top internet censor with corruption

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China’s former internet tsar Lu Wei has been indicted with taking a “huge amount of” bribes, the top prosecutor’s office announced on Monday.

Lu, widely seen as the public face of China’s draconian control over the internet during his term at the helm of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) until 2016, now faces a trial.

Prosecutors in the eastern port city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province have submitted an indictment to the city’s intermediate people’s court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in a statement, although a trial date has not yet been announced.

He is accused of taking advantage of his own position – as well as that of other state functionaries – to seek profits for others and illegally accepting “a huge amount of assets”.

The statement said the charges related to crimes he allegedly committed since his time working for state news agency Xinhua, Beijing municipal party committee and government, the CAC and the party’s central propaganda department.

Lu, 58, was officially put under investigation in November, becoming the first “tiger” to be targeted in President Xi Jinping’s second term in power, following the National Party Congress.

In February, he was denounced by the party’s top anti-graft watchdog for being “tyrannical” and “shameless”. It is also claimed that he tried to enhance his personal fame, made false and anonymous accusations against others and deceived the top leadership of the Communist Party. He is accused of extreme disloyalty, duplicity, trading power for sex, improper discussion of the party and a lack of self control.

Lu was a controversial figure at home and abroad during his tenure as the country’s chief internet regulator.

Within China, he was known as a hardline censor who oversaw a campaign to silence outspoken, influential commentators on social media, known as “big Vs” (for verified account). The crackdown significantly diminished Weibo’s role as a vibrant platform for debate on social and political issues, including sensitive topics.

Abroad, Lu was known as the flamboyant gatekeeper of China’s internet, courted by the world’s most prominent technology executives including Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. He was listed by Time magazine in 2015 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

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