China Tries Internet Czar, 'Father of Great Firewall' For Bribery

china-lu-wei-xi-jinping-mark-zuckerberg-sept-2015.jpg Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) talks with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg (R) and China's then-internet czar Lu Wei (L) at Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, WA, in a file photo.
AP Photo

A former top internet censor for the ruling Chinese Communist Party stood trial for corruption behind closed doors in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo on Friday, state media reported.

Lu Wei, once dubbed the "father" of the Great Firewall of government internet censorship, has admitted taking 32 million yuan (U.S. $4.6 million) in bribes, state news agency Xinhua reported.

A former journalist for the state-run news agency Xinhua, Lu rose to become the agency's vice president from 2004-2011, and vice mayor of Beijing from 2011-2013. He was last seen in public a year ago.

Several of Lu's associates and colleagues at the powerful Cyberspace Administration, which he headed until June 2016, were questioned in the probe.

Lu was greeted in Mandarin by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during a December 2014 trip to the United States, during which he also told Apple's Tim Cook that Beijing would decide whether to allow products to enter the Chinese market.

But his fall to an ongoing anti-corruption campaign waged by President Xi Jinping is likely due to behind-the-scenes power struggles, analysts said.

Lu's former colleagues and associates in his home province of Anhui have been put on notice by the authorities, and are attending compulsory "education sessions" to discuss his case, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, citing an article on the website of Xi's hugely powerful State Supervisory Commission.

Since Lu's downfall, Xi has continued to expand the authorities' control over what its more than 730 million internet users can do, see, or say online.

Interpol chief

Meanwhile, the wife of former Interpol president Meng Hongwei, is under police protection in France after her husband was taken to a secret location "on the outskirts of Beijing" to be investigated for corruption.

The official website of China's Ministry of Public Security said Meng is being investigated by the State Supervisory Commission for "accepting bribes and suspected violation of laws."

His wife Grace Meng says she has been contacted by Chinese diplomats, who have told her they're holding a letter from him for her, but has only agreed to meet with lawyers and journalists present.

Exile sources in Paris said she likely fears she will be rendered back to China by agents of the ruling Chinese Communist Party against her will.

Paris-based democracy activist Zhang Jian told RFA that moves are already under way to extradite Grace Meng, who remains vulnerable due to an existing extradition treaty between France and China.

"The Chinese government wants to extradite Meng Hongwei's wife ... and the French government likely won't be able to protect her because the Chinese Communist Party says this is an economic crime of corruption,"
Zhang said.

"Grace Meng needs to demonstrate to the French government that this is actually a form of political persecution before they will protect her," he said.

Request rejected

Officials on the democratic island of Taiwan, which Beijing has blocked from participation in international bodies because it lays claim to its territory, said Interpol had rejected its request to attend next month's general assembly meeting in Dubai as an observer, blaming China for the snub.

Taiwan's premier William Lai said on Friday that the government had received official notification from Interpol that its request to attend the meeting as an observer had been denied.

"Interpol's rejection of Taiwan is unreasonable but we know the important reason behind it is China's suppression of Taiwan," Lai told reporters.

He described China's behavior towards Taiwan as "arrogant and high handed."

Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Yeung Kin for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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