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CCTV host detained amid anti-graft storm: reports

2014-07-14 08:43 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

'Graft fight expands beyond usual government targets'

China's anti-graft efforts have taken an unusual step forward following the sudden detention of celebrity China Central Television (CCTV) anchor Rui Chenggang.

Rui, a popular host of financial news programs on CCTV, was taken away from his studio on Friday, the official People's Daily said Saturday night on its Twitter account without providing the reason for the detention.

The news has become the topic of the moment on China's media and social networks, sparking speculation on Rui's possible connection with corruption charges against his colleagues at CCTV's financial news channel.

Rui was scheduled to host a program on Friday night, but was taken directly by prosecutors from the CCTV premises without prior notice. His seat was left vacant and his microphone remained on the anchor's desk, a sign of his sudden departure, the Beijing Times reported.

Rui's detention came after the investigation and incarceration of several senior staff in the broadcaster's finance and economics news channel, including channel head Guo Zhenxi and producer Tian Liwu, on suspicions of corruption, the Supreme People's Procuratorate announced on June 1.

Speculation began circulating after Guo's detention that Rui was also under investigation due to the close ties between the two, but was denied by Rui's assistant on June 3.

On June 6, Wang Shijie, a producer close to Guo and the head of finance for the channel, was also taken away for investigation, together with another female host and writer-director, financial news portal Caixin reported.

Eight staff members from the CCTV financial news channel have been so far detained. The network's vice director of financial news Li Yong and another unnamed producer were also taken away by prosecutors on the same day as Rui, Caixin Online reported Saturday.

According to Caixin, Li allegedly kept a safe stocked with millions of yuan in his CCTV office. It is not clear whether this has any relation to his detention.

"As a public figure, Rui's arrest has special implications, marking the extension of China's anti-corruption campaign from the usual targets of government officials to the less usual targets of medical personnel, university professors and media workers," Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economist told the Global Times.

Rui's family allegedly opened a public relations agency, which tapped into Rui's far-reaching network while charging Rui's interviewees for their appearances on CCTV, according to Caixin.

"As a host on CCTV's financial news channel, Rui had access to considerable resources and information. Corporate leaders are eager to promote themselves by appearing on his program. All these resources make Rui susceptible to charges that he abused his power," said Ren Jianming, an anti-corruption expert at Beihang University in Beijing.

Throughout his journalism career, Rui has interviewed many world leaders including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In March, He Huazhang and Zhang Qinyun, founders of Chengdu Business Daily and Chutian Metropolis Daily, were stripped of their official titles and investigated for serious violation of discipline.

Detention of a non-political figure like Rui may be unusual, but with the increasing tempo of arrests of media figures and marked similarity in management practices among different media firms, Ren, the anti-corruption expert, believes that more media firms are leaving themselves open to similar charges, and that much closer attention to and investigations into the industry will follow.

Rui, 36, joined CCTV's English channel in 2003 and has been no stranger to controversy along his path to fame.

He became a household name in China for his nationalistic stance, describing the opening of a Starbucks inside Beijing's Forbidden City as an "erosion of Chinese culture" in 2007, and later causing a stir when he claimed to "represent the entire Asia" when trying to raise a question with US President Barack Obama during a G20 summit in 2010.

Rui has published two books telling his personal stories of success.

He was invited to many universities to give speech to the students.

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