China jails ex-Internet tsar 14 years for corruption

Former chief Internet regulator Lu Wei pleaded guilty in October, after prosecutors accused him of abusing his power in various government posts over 15 years.
Former chief Internet regulator Lu Wei pleaded guilty in October, after prosecutors accused him of abusing his power in various government posts over 15 years.PHOTO: REUTERS

Former chief Web regulator Lu Wei pleads guilty to taking bribes worth over $6.4m

BEIJING • A Chinese court yesterday jailed the former chief Internet regulator, Lu Wei, for 14 years, having found him guilty of taking bribes worth more than 32 million yuan (S$6.4 million).

Lu, one of numerous senior officials caught up in President Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-graft campaign, had already been expelled from the ruling Communist Party.

The former regulator, an often brash official by Chinese standards, was seen as emblematic of pervasive Internet controls, although his downfall has not brought a reversal of those policies.

The court in the eastern city of Ningbo said Lu had accepted the verdict and would not appeal.

Lu, 59, pleaded guilty in October after prosecutors accused him of abusing his power in various government posts over 15 years, including as head of the Cyberspace Administration of China.

Between 2002 and 2017, he received illicit assets from government units or individuals worth more than 32 million yuan, the court said, adding that he had "shown repentance" and "actively returned" most of it.

Lu worked his way up through the official Xinhua news agency before becoming head of propaganda in Beijing, and moved to Internet work in 2013. He became a deputy propaganda minister after being replaced at the Internet regulator.

 
 
 

Under Lu, the regulator did not carry out Mr Xi's instructions in a timely or resolute fashion, China's anti-corruption watchdog had said.

The government blocks websites it deems a challenge to party rule or a threat to stability, from foreign social media, news outlets and sites.

Organisers of China's first World Internet Conference in 2014, set up under Lu to promote Beijing's vision of Internet governance, irked foreign tech firms by seeking their agreement on a last-minute declaration on "Internet sovereignty".

Tech industry representatives declined to sign and rights groups condemned it as a bid to undermine Internet freedom.

When Lu visited Facebook's campus in the United States in 2014, he was greeted in Mandarin by Mr Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the social networking site that has long been blocked in China, a Chinese government website said.

Lu had vociferously defended China's Internet curbs. In 2015, he told reporters: "Indeed, we do not welcome those that make money off China, occupy China's market, even as they slander China's people. These kinds of websites I definitely will not allow in my house."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'China jails ex-Internet tsar 14 years for corruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe