Top Chinese internet censor who ‘lost faith in party’ facing trial for corruption

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A former top Chinese internet censor has been expelled from the Communist Party and will face trial for corruption, the party’s top anti-graft body said on Tuesday.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection accused Peng Bo, 64, of disloyalty to the party and failing to supervise the internet industry when he was the deputy chief of the Cyberspace Administration of China.

“Investigations have found that Peng Bo has lost his faith and was disloyal to the party,” the commission said in a statement.

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“He strayed from the decisions and plans laid down by the Party Central about the propaganda struggle over the internet.

“He also used his authority for his personal gain, sought benefits from internet companies, resisted investigations by the party and engaged in superstitious activities.

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“He violated the eight-point requirements on frugal living, visited private clubs frequently, and accepted invitations to extravagant banquets and dinners,” it added.

In March the CCDI announced that Peng was under investigation. His case has now been referred to state prosecutors, the statement said.

Peng had direct responsibility for regulating the internet industry as deputy head of the cyberspace administration.

He was later transferred to the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission which was responsible for the online monitoring and policing of cult religions in 2015. He retired three years later and taught new media studies at Peking University after retirement.

China's former cybersecurity tsar Lu Wei is serving a 14-year jail sentence. Photo: Handout
China's former cybersecurity tsar Lu Wei is serving a 14-year jail sentence. Photo: Handout

He also played a key role in establishing the Chang An Jian social media platform of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement agency.

Peng also worked under Lu Wei, the disgraced internet tsar, who was jailed for 14 years for corruption in 2019.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said the charges against Peng served as “another sound reminder to all party propagandists that they must strictly toe the party’s line”.

“The commission’s statement showed that [Peng] had failed in the propaganda struggle and this is essential for all party propagandists,” Wu said.

“It is clear that party leaders expect the propagandists to be firm and disciplined in performing their functions especially on [internet] censorship.

“They need to show that they are capable and tough in the struggle and can execute the party’s firm control over the media.”

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A government source in Beijing said Peng played a key role in 2013 in persuading the party leadership to take a more lenient view about regulating booming microblogging platforms such as Weibo.

“Some party leaders were anxious about stepping up control over the fast expanding online community especially Weibo,” said the source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“[Because of these platforms, China] has seen the rise of a large number of key opinion leaders who have become very influential after 2010.”

While some critics had called for these platforms to be shut, Peng proposed that they should be subject to tighter control instead.

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