In a terse announcement posted to its website late today, China’s top anti-corruption watchdog confirmed that the country’s headline-grabbing former internet czar, Lu Wei (鲁炜), is now under investigation. Lu, who served as the first head of the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China directly under President Xi Jinping’s central working group on cybersecurity, was known from 2013 to his surprise exit in June 2016 as the architect of a bold and even aggressive strategy to reign in what the Chinese Communist Party saw as the destabilizing force of the internet. It was widely rumored that Lu personally directed the 2013 campaign against liberal-minded top influencers on China’s Weibo platform, the so-called “Big V’s.”
In what seemed to reveal a much more confident attitude within Xi Jinping’s administration toward the tactics of information control, Lu Wei made no apologies, even internationally, for restrictions on the internet. He once told a gathering at the World Economic Forum’s Summer Davos that the internet must have built-in safety mechanisms to allow the management of ideas. “The internet is like a car,” said Lu. “If it has no brakes, it doesn’t matter how fast the car is capable of traveling, once it gets on the highway you can imagine what the end result will be. And so, no matter how advanced, all cars must have brakes.”
Lu was also a key figure behind the crafting of China’s highly restrictive Cybersecurity Law.
The announcement of the corruption case against Lu Wei made no mention of the nature of his alleged offenses. It contained a single line announcing that he was “lately receiving organizational examination” (this being a more recent designation for anti-corruption investigations of a serious nature) and then detailing his resume.
Deputy Minister of the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department Lu Wei is suspected of serious disciplinary violations and is lately receiving organizational examination. Lu Wei Resume
Lu Wei, Male, Han ethnicity, born January 1960, native of Chaohu (巢湖), Anhui Province, member of Chinese Communist Party. . . .
The announcement mentions Lu’s last position, held from June 2016, as simply “deputy minister of the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department.”
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Lu was taken in last week by anti-corruption investigators, and that his secretary, personal driver and two other related officials of “medium ranking” were also taken in. Caixin Global reported that Lu Wei was last publicly seen during of Yan’an University on October 26.
So far, Lu Wei’s successor as cyber chief, Xu Lin (徐麟), has kept a much lower profile. In this June 2016 post, we looked into Xu and his history with Xi Jinping.
A bold headline on the official website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection today (second to the right of the image) announces the investigation against Lu Wei.