Disgraced former Chinese internet tzar Lu Wei charged with bribery

Former Chinese Minister of Cyberspace Affairs Administration, Lu Wei, speaks at the opening ceremony of the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, in eastern China's Zhejiang province on November 19, 2014.

(CNN)China has charged the country's former internet czar and top censor with bribery, capping a dramatic fall from the heights of political power.

Lu Wei "accepted a large number of bribes" during his time as national propaganda chief, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, deputy head of the official Xinhua news agency, and as a Beijing city official, according to state media.
The charges come after Lu was expelled from the Communist Party and dismissed from public office in February, which followed a sudden fall from favor in mid 2016, when he left his position at the Cyberspace Administration.
    At that time, some speculated Lu was destined for even higher office, such was his perceived connection to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who consistently promoted Lu during earlier periods in his career.
      But it soon became apparent the censor had fallen from favor, and an official corruption investigation was announced just weeks before the opening of the 2017 World Internet Conference, a gathering of China's top government officials and industry leaders seen as his brainchild.
      Chinese President Xi Jinping (middle) talks with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg (right) as Lu Wei, China's Internet czar, looks on during a gathering of CEOs and other executives at the main campus of Microsoft Corp September 23, 2015  in Redmond, Washington.

      Rise to the top

      Short and stocky, with a wide smile and larger-than-life presence, Lu, who was born in 1960, started his climb through the ranks of China's propaganda and censorship apparatus at Xinhua, which he joined as a regional correspondent in the 1990s.
        By 2001, he was the news agency's secretary general, and would become its vice president within three years. According to some reports, he was an ally of former Premier Wen Jiabao and responsible in part for crafting his man-of-the-people "Grandpa Wen" image.
        Leaked US state department cables from his time as Xinhua showed Lu arguing aggressively for Chinese "sovereignty" on media issues, something he would expand on as Xi's internet tzar.
        After a brief stint overseeing propaganda and publicity for the Beijing government, Lu joined the state council in 2013 and later the newly created Cyberspace Administration of China.
        In these roles, he oversaw a crackdown on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform, reigning in powerful thought leaders and celebrities known as the "Big Vs" for their "verified" status.
        In a meeting with several leading commentators, Lu laid out "seven bottom lines," including upholding socialist ideals, for Weibo posters to follow. Those who refused, or later overstepped, were banned from the platform or even faced criminal prosecution.
        Lu took a similarly strident line with foreign internet companies, despite the best efforts of tech billionaires like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to court him.
        Under Xi and Lu, China has advanced the "doctrine of cyberspace sovereignty," a dramatic reimagining of how the internet works, which would see the global, open internet turned into an overlapping collection of national internets, each with their own rules and tightly policed borders.