The powerful head of China’s cybersecurity and internet censorship agency has stepped aside in favor of his deputy, according to a brief announcement by the state news agency.
The six-sentence bulletin from Xinhua said that Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, was being replaced by his deputy Xu Lin. It gave no reason why, and the implications of the change remain unclear.
The bulletin said there would be ‘a further assignment’ for Lu, who will apparently remain a deputy chief at the Communist Party’s Central Publicity Department. Lu has headed the CAC since Chinese President Xi Jinping set it up in 2014.
The shake-up was first reported by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. The paper said Xu was considered a protege and close ally of President Xi, having worked with him when he was Shanghai party boss a decade ago.
The New York Times attempts to read the tea leaves on the implications of Lu’s departure, concluding ‘it was not clear whether his departure from the Cyberspace Administration was a demotion.’
The Times notes that Lu was a flamboyant figure by the muted standards of China’s Communist bureaucrats and ruffled feathers with his outspoken defense of Beijing’s right to censor the internet, get access to source code and impose other onerous burdens on foreign technology companies operating in the country.
‘So confrontational was he with some foreign technology companies that they complained to top government officials, like Vice Premier Wang Yang, about his heavy hand,’ the Times reports, citing an anonymous business consultant.