Chinese internet surveillance tsar arrested for graft


CHINA’S TOP surveillance tsar has been has been arrested for taking bribes and framing a business rival, a move that has inspired and gratified both local bloggers and foreign journalists used to stultifying censorship regulations, and prompted questions at senior levels of the Communist Party about how the “Great Firewall of China” is enforced.

Yu Bing, director of the internet monitoring department of Beijing’s Public Security Bureau (PSB), has been arrested on suspicion of taking more than 40 million yuan (€4.5 million) in bribes.

Everyone in Beijing is accustomed to living with surveillance of their online activities: internet cafe habitues, student bloggers, teenage gamers and foreign journalists are all used to that familiar message saying your internet search has fallen foul of security.

People chuckle when you ask why you can’t access a website and say it’s because the PSB has a tight rein on everything. Journalists here for the Olympics complained, but the resident press corps just sighed and resigned themselves to the usual mix of blocking and ill-will.

China is freer now than it has been at any point in its history. It has the biggest number of internet users in the world, about 300 million, and its citizens enjoy more liberty than they did under the emperors or under the Communist Party before and during the Cultural Revolution. They have money in their pockets and can express their views relatively openly on the streets.

But China has tens of thousands of “net nannies”, who read every e-mail, web posting or search for “Dalai Lama”, and they are a huge impediment to reporting in China.

Mr Yu has been detained by the Beijing procurator and is under investigation for taking bribes from anti-virus software company Ruixing and for partnering with other internet police to frame a competitor of Ruixing, Dongfang Weidian Company (Micropoint), resulting in the failure of the competitor’s new products to reach the market.

Zhao Sizhang, vice-president of Ruixing (Rising in English), is under arrest for bribing Mr Yu.

Mr Yu is accused of using falsified data from three anti-virus software companies and a falsified report from an accounting firm recommended by Ruixing, which claimed a financial loss was caused by a Micropoint virus. The falsified data was allegedly used to prove Micropoint vice-president Tian Yakui had broken into a computer information system and infringed on commercial secrets.

Mr Yu’s data led to Mr Tian spending 11 months in custody and Micropoint was forced to delay the release of its anti-virus software for three years.