China’s powerful internet tsar steps aside as another of Xi Jinping’s close allies to take over
Lu Wei relinquishes his role overseeing China’s cyberspace
The mainland’s internet tsar – the official in charge of overseeing cybersecurity and online censorship – has stepped aside.
Lu Wei, the first director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, will be succeeded by his deputy Xu Lin, Xinhua reported yesterday, confirming a South China Morning Post exclusive.
It is unclear if Lu, 56, will get a new appointment in addition to his present role as a deputy head of the Communist Party’s Central Publicity Department.
Officials were briefed on the matter on Tuesday evening, a source said.
Xu was Shanghai’s publicity chief before he was appointed Lu’s deputy in July last year.
Xu is regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters, having worked with him as a standing committee member of Shanghai’s Communist Party when Xi was its chief. Xi moved to Beijing in late 2007.
Lu, also seen as a close ally of Xi, was listed by Time magazine in 2015 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Jon Huntsman, a former US ambassador to China, wrote in the magazine: “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. Almost half of China’s 1.4 billion population is online.”
Lu, a controversial figure, oversaw the tightening of online controls during his tenure as China’s top internet regulator – a position he had held since 2013, when the office was set up.
Under his watch, the government launched a massive campaign to clamp down on what it said were rumour mongers. This coincided with the hunting down of a couple of opinion leaders on criminal charges ranging from illegal business operations to obscene acts.
In 2014, Xi set up a leading group on cybersecurity, which he chairs. Lu’s department became responsible for the daily operation of the group.
Qiao Mu, a communications professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said there would be continuity after Lu’s departure.
“The Cyberspace Administration of China is an agency that implements decisions made from above ... The change of its director does not suggest softening of China’s internet policy.”