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China’s ex-internet tsar Lu Wei handed 14-year jail sentence

A court in China sentenced the country’s former head of internet censorship, Lu Wei, to 14 years in prison for bribery on Tuesday, as part of President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-graft campaign.

Lu, who was charged with accepting bribes from 2002 to 2017, was also fined 3 million yuan (US$450,000), said the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in eastern Zhejiang province.

He accepted the verdict and will not appeal, the court added in a post on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.

Lu Wei

Lu Wei. Photo: Stand News.

Lu, who oversaw a tightening of online censorship during his tenure at the Cyberspace Administration of China, was a fierce defender of China’s policy of internet control.

In 2015, he explained that censorship was necessary to protect online freedoms, and that “freedom without order doesn’t exist”.

A year later, Lu stepped down from his post, and officials announced he was being investigated for suspected disciplinary violations in 2017.

Prosecutors said that Lu used his influence and position at various government organisations, including the Cyberspace Administration of China and Xinhua News Agency, to help others in exchange for benefits.

According to the court, Lu had accepted or solicited bribes worth 32 million yuan (US$4,770,000).

Social media users were blocked from commenting on certain posts on Lu’s sentencing, while some media outlets had scrubbed out select responses.

The former China internet tsar was once named among the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine.

He also met with several Silicon Valley executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who personally welcomed him to the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters in 2014.

china censorship

Lu Wei meets Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2014. Photo: cac.gov.cn.

Zuckerberg has made several attempts to woo China’s top brass, including Xi, as the US social networking site, along with Twitter and Google, remains blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall” of online censorship.

Lu is part of a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in Xi’s anti-graft campaign, which critics say has served as a way to remove the president’s political enemies.

More than one million officials have been punished so far during Xi’s six-year tenure.

In October, Meng Hongwei, former Interpol president and vice minister of China’s public security bureau, was accused of accepting bribes, after he disappeared on a visit to China from France, where his wife and children live.

Last week, Meng’s wife urged French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss her husband’s case with Xi during his official visit to Paris.

In her written appeal, Grace Meng demanded that her husband be allowed to receive visits from his lawyers.

Former security head Zhou Yongkang — who appointed Meng vice security minister in 2004 — was also accused of bribery, as well as abuse of power and leaking state secrets. In 2015, he was sentenced to life in prison.

China's ex-internet tsar Lu Wei handed 14-year jail sentence