Top Chinese TV Anchor Detained as Graft Probe Spreads to Media

Associated Press
Rui Chenggang

Rui Chenggang hosts "Economic News," one of China's most popular business TV shows.

One of China's most popular news anchors, Rui Chenggang, was detained shortly before he was due to make his nightly broadcast on the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV), as the government's investigation into corruption is widened to include the media industry.

His detention by prosecutors was so sudden there was an empty chair left where he should have been sitting to present his popular nightly business news show, Economic News.

According to the magazine Caixin Online, Rui was taken away by prosecutors along with Li Yong, deputy director of CCTV's financial news channel, and an unnamed producer, on Friday.

The 36-year-old Rui is known as a fervent nationalist who campaigned successfully to have the Starbucks in the Forbidden City removed, saying it eroded Chinese culture.

More than $200,000 in cash was found in his office, the magazine reported.

STORY Harsher Censorship or Cunning Plot? Confusion Reigns Over Chinese Online TV Bans

CCTV has been recently under investigation, and it comes just weeks after officials announced an investigation into suspected bribery by his boss, CCTV's advertising director and the director-general of its finance and economics channel, Guo Zhenxi, and producer Tian Liwu, who were taken into custody on suspicion of corruption.

The media sector has come in for scrutiny of late. Chinese journalists often receive cash in envelopes for attending press conferences, and there have been scandals about journalists blackmailing companies to ensure positive coverage.

President Xi Jinping has pledged to root out graft in China, whether it involves massive wealth accumulated by the powerful "tigers" of the elite or backhanders palmed over to the "flies" at the bottom of the Communist Party.

The anti-corruption investigation by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection (CCDI) has taken some big scalps to date, most notably Bo Xilai, the former party boss in Dalian and Chongqing who was purged last year and is serving a life sentence for corruption and abuse of power while his wife sits in jail for murder.

The biggest target since Bo is former oil boss and security czar Zhou Yongkang, who was a member of the party's all-powerful Politburo standing committee until 2012. It is expected that formal charges against Zhou may be filed in coming weeks, and if this proves to be the case, he will be the highest-profile victim yet of the crackdown on corruption.

This weekend saw the former Party secretary of Kunming, capital city of the southwestern Yunnan province Zhang Tianxin, removed from his positions as leader of the Yunnan provincial Communist Party for suspected violation of disciplines, according to the CCDI.

The official Xinhua news agency reported over the weekend that inspectors had found graft in construction and land projects in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.