China says ex-Internet czar on trial over corruption charges

BEIJING — China's former internet censor, who once held high-profile meetings with industry leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was standing trial Friday on corruption allegations, state media reported.

Lu Wei is accused of accepting 32 million yuan ($4.6 million) in bribes and has admitted to his crimes and expressed remorse, according to state broadcaster CCTV. It said his trial began Friday in the eastern city of Ningbo.

China has 700 million people online, but it heavily censors content, especially that of a political nature, along with sites related to gambling, drugs and pornography.

Lu was responsible for leading the government's efforts to tighten control over domestic cyberspace and championing the party's position that governments have a right to filter and censor their countries' internet.

He took a hard line in demanding tough security checks on imported foreign tech products and keeping out foreign internet companies and social networks like Facebook in the name of preserving social stability.

Lu worked his way up the ranks of China's official Xinhua News Agency from a reporting job in the southern city of Guilin in the early 1990s to becoming the agency's vice president from 2004 to 2011. He was vice mayor of Beijing from 2011 to 2013.

While CCTV's report gave few details, previous accusations against Lu said he engaged in factionalism and "selectively enforced" the party's "strategic arrangements on internet work," in addition to being corrupt and abusing his powers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has carried out a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption that observers say is also calibrated to bring down political opponents.

Among officials and military leaders recently ensnared is the former president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, who vanished after traveling to China late last month from France, where the global anti-crime body is headquartered.

Days later, China said Meng was under investigation for graft and possibly other crimes, although there are heavy suspicions he had fallen out of political favor with Xi. His wife, Grace Meng, said she received a threatening phone call from a man speaking Chinese and is under police protection in France.

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