China’s former internet czar, who oversaw a tightening of online censorship during his tenure, has been expelled from the Communist Party for taking bribes, the top graft watchdog said Tuesday.
More than 20 allegations against Lu Wei, ranging from serious crimes to criticisms of his character, were listed on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which announced the decision.
In an unusually florid statement, the anti-graft agency accused Mr. Lu of “using power for personal gain” and “deceiving the central government” and slammed his “tyrannical” management style. He chose to “selectively carry out” the party’s Internet strategy, the document alleged, adding a further investigation would be undertaken.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) February 13, 2018
Mr. Lu was once named among the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine and had rubbed shoulders with the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But in June 2016 he stepped down from his position supervising controls on online expression as head of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
In November 2017, officials announced he was being investigated for suspected disciplinary violations. Mr. Lu had fiercely defended the country’s censorship apparatus after he was appointed in 2013.
He was a powerful figure both at home and abroad, where he commanded the attention of global technology firms eager for a piece of the Chinese market. He was personally received by Mr. Zuckerberg in 2014 at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, and appeared in the front row of a group photo alongside top executives from American tech giants such as Amazon and President Xi Jinping when the head of state visited the U.S. in 2015.
Facebook is among a slew of Western websites, along with Twitter, Instagram and several news outlets, that are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall” of internet censorship. The announcement of Mr. Lu’s expulsion follows news earlier Tuesday that former Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai had been charged with bribery after being removed from the party in September.