Corruption in China
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China's former cybersecurity tsar Lu Wei pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of corruption. Photo: Handout

China’s former internet tsar Lu Wei pleads guilty to corruption

  • The once flamboyant gatekeeper of the world’s largest online population was grave and pale in his court appearance
  • Sentencing date has not yet been announced

China’s former internet tsar Lu Wei has pleaded guilty to taking bribes of 32 million yuan (US$4.6 million), according to provincial court authorities.

Lu, the former head of China’s powerful internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), appeared in court in eastern Zhejiang province on Friday morning.

He was accused of taking advantage of his positions – and the power and status that came along with them – to seek profits for others on matters such as network management and promotions, the Intermediate People’s Court of Ningbo heard.

In return, Lu accepted bribes, either directly or through a third party, prosecutors said.

China sends ex-colleagues of former internet tsar Lu Wei to ‘education sessions’

The court heard Lu’s crimes spanned his decades-long career at state news agency Xinhua, the Beijing municipal party committee and government, the CAC and the party’s Central Publicity Department.

Lu pleaded guilty to the charges and “expressed repentance”, the court said, without setting a date for sentencing.

In a photo published by the court, Lu is shown in a black jacket with a grave, pale look, his once dyed jet-black hair has turned salt-and-pepper – a big contrast to the old flamboyance at the height of his power.

Lu, 58, has been widely seen as the public face of China’s draconian censorship of the internet.

Abroad, the gatekeeper of the world’s largest online population was courted by the world’s most prominent technology executives including Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

At the height of his influence, he was listed by Time magazine in 2015 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

A career propagandist, Lu had been at the helm of the CAC since its launch in 2014, until he was abruptly removed from the position in June 2016.

He was officially put under investigation in November, following the Communist Party’s five-yearly National Congress, becoming the first “tiger” – a name used to describe senior officials accused of corruption – to be targeted during President Xi Jinping’s second term in power.

China’s corrupt ‘tigers’ tipped to be a rarer sight but plenty of ‘flies’ left to swat

In February, he was expelled from the party and denounced by its top anti-corruption watchdog for being “tyrannical” and “shameless” – unusually harsh wording when commenting on a senior official.

The watchdog also claimed Lu tried to raise his personal profile, made false and anonymous accusations against others, and deceived the party’s top leadership. It went on to attack his personal character, accusing him of everything from extreme disloyalty to duplicity, trading power for sex and having a lack of self-control.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: former INTERNET TSAR pleads guilty to graft