23 March 2019
A major exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of China’s opening up is underway in Beijing. Part of the exhibition focuses on the anti-graft campaign, which features a handwritten confession from former internet czar Lu Wei. Photo: Xinhua/CNSA
A major exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of China’s opening up is underway in Beijing. Part of the exhibition focuses on the anti-graft campaign, which features a handwritten confession from former internet czar Lu Wei. Photo: Xinhua/CNSA

Why Lu Wei became the most hated man in China

The Great Revolution, a major public exhibition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China’s economic reforms and opening up, is currently underway in Beijing.

According to the Beijing Youth Daily, the remarkable achievements of the anti-graft efforts made by the Communist Party of China (CPC) over the decades are presented in one of the exhibition areas.

Among the exhibits on China’s anti-corruption campaign are documents, court decisions and written confessions by senior government officials such as Lu Wei, the former deputy director of the Publicity Department of the CPC who was recently arrested on graft charges.

In his confession statement, which has already gone viral on the internet, Lu said he has made serious and unforgivable mistakes politically and economically, as well as at work and in his everyday life.

However, if we take a closer look at the wording of Lu’s confession, we will find that there actually isn’t much difference between his statement and those of other convicted government officials, be they junior or senior, exposed in recent years.

Nor did Lu deeply reflect on his misconduct or come up with any inspiring words of wisdom throughout his confession statement. Even his writing style does not reflect his background as a senior official of the Publicity Department.

That begs the question: Why is Lu’s mediocre confession statement chosen as one of the major exhibits in such a high-profile official event?

True, Lu used to be a party official at the ministerial level before he was arrested on corruption charges, but bureaucrats holding similar ranks are a dime a dozen in Beijing.

Besides, there is basically an endless list of convicted party officials of much more senior ranks than Lu, such as former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, former member of the CPC Politburo standing committee Zhou Yongkang, former top general of the People’s Liberation Army Guo Boxiong, former vice chairman of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Ling Jihua, former Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai, etc.

However, not a single copy of the confession statements written by these “big tigers” is on display at the exhibition.

It seems the choice of Lu’s confession has nothing to do with the content of the statement or his official rank.

As far as the gravity of the crimes which Lu has committed is concerned, according to the indictment against him released by the Intermediate People’s Court of the Ningbo municipality in Zhejiang province on Oct. 19 this year, the aggregate amount of bribes Lu accepted both directly and indirectly between 2002 and 2017 was about 32 million yuan (US$4.6 million).

To put that in perspective, if all the criminal charges pressed against him are proven true, Lu was accepting an average of 2.13 million yuan in bribes per year over a span of 15 years.

It might sound quite a lot, but the truth is, the supposed amount of dirty money Lu had taken when he was in power is just peanuts compared to those amassed by other high-profile corrupt officials.

For instance, former chairman of the now defunct China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) Xiang Junbo was convicted of accepting bribes totaling 1 billion yuan.

Lai Xiaomin, former board chairman of the state-owned China Huarong Asset Management Co., was accused of taking bribes of over 1 billion yuan.

So far this year, many mainland government officials have been convicted of accepting bribes amounting to over 100 million yuan.

It appears that the reason why Lu’s case was put in the spotlight has nothing to do with the gravity of his crimes nor the amount of bribes he has accepted.

So why did Beijing leaders so eagerly pick on Lu and make an example of him in such a high-profile manner at the 40th-anniversary exhibition, when he isn’t actually much of a “big tiger” compared to other corrupt officials?

Apparently, the underlying cause of Lu’s downfall is political rather than economic.

The fact that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC, in an announcement on Feb. 13 this year, condemned Lu for being “extremely disloyal” to the Central Committee of the CPC, “deceiving” the Central Committee and “recklessly criticizing” the policies of the Central Committee in unusually harsh terms can give us a clue as to why he was picked on.

Obviously, Lu could have rattled the cage of some very powerful figure in the party that he should never have, and as a result, he was made the most “hated” person in the entire CPC and was nailed to the wall.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 17

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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