BEIJING—China’s former internet chief, Lu Wei, pleaded guilty in court on Oct. 19 of taking millions of dollars in bribes, after prosecutors accused him of abusing his power in various government posts over 15 years.
The ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog said in November that Lu, who once headed the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China, was under investigation for serious discipline breaches.
The agency, known as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), called out Lu for a plethora of misdeeds, including “outwardly agreeing with, but secretly opposing authority,” “anonymously framing people,” “forming cliques and factions,” “nasty behavior,” “having inflated sense of ambition,” and “using any means possible to boost himself.”
The relentless criticism suggests Lu had committed something very wrong in the eyes of the Party leadership.
Lu had since been expelled from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), paving the way for his prosecution and making him one of a number of senior officials caught up in a sweeping anti-graft campaign under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Prosecutors at an intermediate court in Ningbo city, Zhejiang Province said that between 2002 and 2017, Lu received illicit assets from government units or individuals worth more than 32 million yuan ($4.6 million), the official Xinhua news agency said.
“Lu Wei also made a final statement to the court, and admitted guilt and expressed regret,” Xinhua said.
The news agency said a verdict would be announced later, though Lu, 58, is almost certain to be found guilty, as courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge the accusations against him.
At the height of his influence, Lu, a colorful and often brash official by Chinese standards, was seen as emblematic of increasingly pervasive internet controls.
He had worked his way up through the Xinhua news agency before becoming head of propaganda in Beijing and then moving to internet work in 2013. He later became a deputy propaganda minister.
The accusations of “forming cliques and factions” hints at the possibility that Lu aligned with an opposition faction. Lu had connections with Ling Jihua, a former top political advisor and known member of the “Jiang faction,” those officials still loyal to former CCP dictator Jiang Zemin.
Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012, mainly targeting officials who have ties to Jiang.
Lu’s political connections may be what cost him his post. Lu had spent most of his career working in the CCP’s propaganda agencies under Liu Yunshan, the former propaganda chief who is also a key associate in the Jiang faction.
Xi had been cleaning house within the military (People’s Liberation Army or PLA) to purge any remaining influences of Jiang and his faction. The campaign has seen the jailing or punishment of hundreds of thousands of officials and also brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.
The crackdown has not just been focused on issues like bribery and using public money to fund lavish lifestyles. It has also taken aim at those whose political loyalty is found lacking or who express doubt about party policies.
By Michael Martina. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.