Thousands of Chinese officials punished for breaking frugality rules

Ex-internet czar Lu Wei also charged with bribery in anti-corruption campaign

President Xi Jinping has held a hard stance and crackdown on graft and corruption in public government offices since coming to power in 2012. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

President Xi Jinping has held a hard stance and crackdown on graft and corruption in public government offices since coming to power in 2012. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

 

China’s anti-corruption watchdog has punished nearly 37,000 government officials for violating rules on frugality, and among those caught up in the graft crackdown is the ex-chief of internet regulation, Lu Wei, on bribery charges.

Since he came to power in 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping has introduced a wide-ranging campaign against graft in public office, which has punished 1.5 million cadres and investigated more than 440 senior cadres with provincial-level positions or above.

Among the senior officials punished were the former security minister Zhou Yongkang.

The government introduced a code of “eight rules” for behaviour in government in late 2012 “to reduce undesirable work practices and maintain close ties with the masses” and these include requirements on frugality.

The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CDDI) punished 36,618 officials in the first half of the year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The most common misdemeanour was awarding an unauthorised allowance or bonus, followed by exchanging gifts and misuse of public vehicles. One of those punished included a “ministerial level” official.

Lu Wei was once a close lieutenant of Mr Xi and had a speedy rise through the ranks to become director of China’s propaganda department, as well as deputy mayor of Beijing. In 2015, he visited Facebook’s offices where the company’s chief Mark Zuckerberg greeted him speaking Chinese.

Facebook is banned in China, along with Google, Twitter and other overseas sites.

The government keeps a firm grip on the internet, ostensibly to stop pornography and violent content, but critics say it is chiefly to muzzle avenues for dissent.

Mr Lu is being charged with “taking advantage of his own positions and using other officials to seek profits for others as well as accepting a huge amount of money and property,” Xinhua reported.

His fall from grace was swift. Appointed in 2013 to head a new online watchdog, Mr Lu was suddenly replaced as head of the online regulator in July 2015 by Xu Lin. The government made no comment on his removal and Xinhua, the agency he formerly headed up, said simply he would no longer be director of the watchdog.

Earlier this month, Mr Xi said the fight against corruption was not yet over and the anti-corruption campaign would “always be on the road”, promising to step up efforts to have better internal supervision.

The CDDI is busy these days. The discipline inspection body in Jilin province is also investigating an illegal vaccine production case at a company called Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences.

On Sunday, police said they would arrest 18 employees suspected of involvement.

The discovery of faulty vaccinations, including for rabies, diphtheria and tetanus, has caused widespread anger and led to protests in Beijing, as well as damaging confidence in China’s pharmaceutical industry.

Another company, the state-owned Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, has been accused of making more than 400,000 substandard vaccines.