The Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced on Tuesday that former cyberczar Lu Wei has been expelled from the CCP and from public office, and faces likely criminal prosecution for bribery. Lu was deputy chief of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the founding head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, established by Xi Jinping in late 2013 as "an important pillar of […] the state’s application of cutting-edge information and communication technology to sustain China’s one-party rule" (according to a 2016 report from MERICS). He was suddenly removed from the CAC role in June 2016. While it was initially unclear whether his star would rise or fall, he was revealed to be under disciplinary investigation last November. A propaganda directive leaked after the announcement ordered the closure of "comments on websites, WeChat public accounts, Weibo etc. Find and delete negative comments attacking the system, and so on."
In a statement, the CCDI outlined the broad scope of Lu’s alleged political, legal, ideological, professional, and moral failings. These include charges of weak Party spirit, personal enrichment, and sexual misconduct—all common in corruption cases. Lu is also accused of indiscriminate self-promotion. He was a prominent, insistent, and occasionally florid advocate of China’s internet management strategy, mingling with foreign tech executives and arguing that "the internet must have brakes," that "freedom and order are twin sisters," and that Beijing had every right to shut out foreign firms planning "to harm China’s interests, to harm China’s security, or to harm the interests of China’s consumers." Despite his apparent ardor, the CCDI accused him of implementing central authorities’ internet management approach selectively. This emphasis on Lu’s imperfect execution of plans determined above his head may be intended to loosen public association between Lu himself and the policies he enacted, which as anticipated have only escalated since his removal. More generally, Lu is accused of engaging in plots, recruiting some officials while conspiring against others, feigning compliance with central authorities while secretly opposing them, and engaging in "improper discussion" of centrally determined policy.
While the statement only explicitly mentions faults in his work at the CAC, Lu’s removal from that role roughly coincided with a harsh CCDI condemnation of the CPD for failing to "show its sword" in enforcing Party control over the media and in the educational sphere. Although Lu kept his CPD position, this timing may suggest a possible connection between the investigations of the department and, later, of Lu himself.
The CCDI statement, translated by CDT:
Recently, with the approval of central Party authorities, the Party’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection registered an investigation into the issue of serious disciplinary violations by Lu Wei, formerly deputy head of the Central Propaganda Department and head of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
The investigation showed that Lu Wei had seriously violated political discipline and norms; deceived central authorities with overt agreement but covert opposition; ignored established practice and behaved unscrupulously; improperly discussed central policy; obstructed central authorities’ investigations; allowed his personal ambitions to run wild; made personal use of government property; engaged in self-promotion by any available means, and in atrocious moral conduct including anonymous false accusations against others; engaged in factional recruitment, setting up a "clique." He had seriously violated mass discipline and the spirit of the central authorities’ eight-point austerity rules, frequenting private clubs, vigorously pursuing privilege, and acting crudely, arrogantly, and domineeringly. He violated organizational discipline, giving inaccurate accounts both in speech and in writing; he violated anti-corruption discipline, abusing his power for personal gain and enrichment; he violated work discipline, selectively implementing the center’s strategic plan for internet management; and he used power to obtain sex without a shred of integrity. He exploited his post for others’ benefit and is suspected of accepting huge bribes.
As a senior Party cadre, Lu Wei’s ideological conviction was deficient, he completely lacked Party spirit and principles, he was extremely disloyal to the Party’s Central Committee, he lacked every one of the "Four Consciousnesses" and violated each of the "Six Great Disciplines," and was a typical “two-faced person,” showing no restraint or awareness of when to stop after the 18th Party Congress. This concentration of serious issues outraged the masses, and offers a textbook case of mutually entangled political and economic problems, extremely low character, and grave specifics. In accordance with the "Disciplinary Measures and Rules of the Chinese Communist Party" and other relevant regulations, and following discussion by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection Standing Committee and approval by the Party Central Committee, it is decided that Lu Wei be expelled from the Party and from public office; that his illegal gains be seized; and that issues, evidence, and other matters associated with his suspected crimes be referred to the relevant state organs for handling in accordance with the law. [Chinese]
Also this week, Xinhua announced the corruption indictment of Sun Zhengcai, once tipped as a future leader, and of his associate Duan Weihong, who had business links with the family of former Premier Wen Jiabao.