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China’s Censorship Tsar Steps Down

The head of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), also known informally as the country’s powerful censorship tsar, has stepped down to be replaced by his deputy.

Lu Wei, who was appointed only three years ago, has been a high profile defender of China’s right to control online content within its borders – sometimes referred to ironically as the Chinese intranet.

During his tenure there has been a noticeable tightening of online controls in what is already one of the most tightly regulated countries in the world.

This has included a crackdown on VPNs, strict punishment for the spreading of “rumors” online – especially on micro-blogging sites – real name registration policies, and more.

It was even alleged by rights organization Greatfire.org that the CAC was responsible for a massive DDoS attack against GitHub and its own site intended to take offline content banned inside China.

Also, it was claimed that the same government agency launched, or sanctioned, Man in the Middle attacks in an effort to censor encrypted sites which switched on HTTPS in a bid to outwit the Great Firewall.

The CAC is responsible for the Chinese Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which was also blamed by Google for issuing unauthorized TLS certificates for several of its domains, which were subsequently used in man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.

Given the lack of media scrutiny of Chinese politics and especially the internal vagaries of the Communist Party, it’s still unclear whether Lu has been promoted or fallen foul of his one-time advocate Xi Jinping.

According to reports the 56-year-old still holds the powerful position of deputy head of the Communist Party’s Central Publicity Department – an indication that he may have left his current role en route to even bigger and better things in the Xi administration.

He’ll be replaced at the Cyberspace Administration of China by deputy Xu Lin.

Greatfire.org co-founder Charlie Smith speculated that Lu may have been removed from his post because he still wasn’t good enough at scrubbing every piece of negative content about Xi and the Party from the web.

“Regardless of the reasons for Lu Wei's dismissal, I do not think that the authorities will veer off the course that Lu has set,” he told Infosecurity by email. “If Xu Lin handles information control on the Chinese internet the same way the authorities handle information control in Tibet then the situation could even get worse.”

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