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China Reshuffles Its Censorship Chiefs

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China Power

China Reshuffles Its Censorship Chiefs

China announces its new internet czar, after former cyber chief Lu Wei was officially charged with bribery.

China Reshuffles Its Censorship Chiefs

In this Aug. 19, 2013 file photo, computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the internet at an internet cafe in Beijing, China.

Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

China has been reshuffling its propaganda and censorship chiefs recently.

On July 31, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) — the top regulator of China’s internet — announced that Zhuang Rongwen, age 57, had been appointed as its new chief. Prior to that, Zhuang had been vice minister in the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, which controls China’s propaganda machine. Meanwhile, the CAC’s current chief, Xu Lin, 56, will be replaced and “assigned to another appointment.”

The announcement didn’t clarify when the reshuffle will start officially or what Xu’s future appointment will be. But multiple non-Chinese mainland media outlets, including the South China Morning Post, cited anonymous sources saying that Xu, who had previously worked for Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai, is to oversee the State Council Information Office and the Party’s external propaganda arm, replacing Jiang Jianguo.

On July 25, the State Council announced in an extremely short notice that Jiang, 62 (not yet at retirement age), had been removed from the position of director of the State Council Information Office. The notice did not say, as is customary, that Jiang would be “assigned to another appointment.”

It’s particularly worth mentioning that the announcement of new CAC leadership came just one day after Xinhua reported Lu Wei — the CAC’s former chief before Xu — had been charged with bribery.

As The Diplomat reported previously, Lu had been listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2015. But in February, Lu was slammed by China’s top authorities as a  “shameless,” “extremely disloyal,” “double-faced man.” They issued a laundry list of misconducts, including “deceiving the CCP Central Committee, being defiant of rules, acting wantonly, groundlessly criticizing the Central Committee’s policies, and trying to obstruct the central authority’s discipline inspections.”

This specific accusation against Lu, issued by Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) — the highest internal-control institution of the CCP — was regarded by Chinese observers as the “harshest ever condemnation” against any corrupt CCP officials so far.

According to his resume, Lu began his career as a reporter; in 1991, he worked for Xinhua, where he was gradually promoted to this state news agency’s senior leader. In 2014, Lu’s career took off. That year China established the CAC and Lu was appointed as its director.

The latest announcement from Xinhua claimed that Lu took advantage of his positions throughout his entire career — from the time he worked as senior leader in Xinhua till he oversaw the CAC — by receiving huge amounts of cash and merchandise from others and seeking benefits for them in return.

The latest announcement about Lu, together with the previous, “harshest ever condemnation” against him, have been posted on the CAC’s website in a very noticeable position.