China’s Former Top Internet Regulator Jailed for 14 Years

(Bloomberg) -- China’s former top internet regulator was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, completing the downfall of a once-high-flying official who mingled with executives from Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Lu Wei was found guilty of taking bribes on Tuesday by the Ningbo People’s Intermediate Court in the eastern province of Zhejiang, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. He was found to have accepted some 32 million yuan ($4.6 million) from companies and individuals seeking help with regulatory issues and promoting their businesses online, the report said.

Lu was convicted after a one-day trial in October. He told the court that he would obey the sentence and not appeal, Xinhua said.

China’s Former Top Internet Regulator Jailed for 14 Years

The former Beijing propaganda official was named as China’s first national internet regulator in 2014 after the country established the Cyberspace Administration of China to manage a market that now has more than 800 million users. Lu spearheaded Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Clear Cyberspace” campaign, purging “unhealthy” online content, reining in news portals and muzzling opinion leaders.

While serving as chief internet censor at home, Lu sought to portray himself as a forward-looking official on the world stage, shaking hands with Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook. Lu challenged critics of Chinese efforts to block foreign websites, offering a standard response still used by local authorities: “China welcomes any law-abiding foreign companies.”

Under his watch, the cyberspace administration introduced a series of regulations on instant-messaging applications targeting Tecent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, constraining user profiles, managing online comments and establishing procedures for summoning technology companies for official inquiries.

The charges against Lu spanned his career across several government bodies, including Xinhua, the Beijing municipal government and the Communist Party’s propaganda department, according to prosecutors. He was officially put under investigation in November 2017, becoming the first senior official to fall after Xi secured a second term as party chief.

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