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Policy

China’s Former Internet Czar Expelled From Party Amid Claims Of Financial, Sexual Misconduct

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Lu Wei, left, with Mark Zuckerberg and president Xi Jinping in 2015. (Reuters/Ted S. Warren)

Lu Wei, the former head of China’s powerful Internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, has been expelled from the Community Party amid claims he used his power to gains financial and sexual favors.

In a statement, China’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), accused Lu of "selectively" carrying out strategic work on cyber security assigned by the central government, and using his power for his financial gains and sex.

It also said that Lu "deceived the central government, ignored disciplines and did whatever he wanted." Adding, "He commented on central government with distortion and obstructed central government investigations. With his growing ambition, he used every means to build his power and formed cliques inside the party."

The CCDI initially said it was investigating Lu for suspected corruption last November.

Both Chinese netizen and newspapers were quick to note the exceptionally harsh wording of the statement. One post typical of a reaction across the Internet read, "With all the harsh adjectives, this guy must have messed up something terrible."

The People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Communist Party, published an article titled "The Adjectives About Lu Wei You Should Remember", noting that such harsh wording is rare. To drive home the point it attached an anti-corruption speech by Xi Jinping aimed at reinforcing party discipline.

Serving as China’s “Internet Czar” from 2014 to 2016, Lu was seen by many as the architect of China’s increasingly strict controls over online media and technology, effectively controlled what 700 million Chinese Internet users could view or do online. In the name of maintaining social stability, Lu took a hard line in demanding tough security checks on foreign-made technology products and limiting access to foreign Internet companies and social networks.

As such, gaining Lu’s favor was seen as critical for foreign technology companies hoping to gain access to China’s huge Internet market. Taking a higher-profile approach that most senior Chinese officials, Lu held well-publicized meetings with the chiefs of foreign technology and Internet companies, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

When Lu visited Facebook Inc’s U.S. campus in 2014, Zuckerberg reportedly greeted Lu in Mandarin. Facebook, however, remains banned in China.

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