CCTV presenter embroiled in allegations of spying for Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am

In show business circles, they say all publicity is good publicity, but a star presenter for CCTV who has found herself accused of spying for Taiwan may beg to differ.

Fang Jing, 38, has been forced to deny allegations she was duped into providing military intelligence by a Taiwanese boyfriend who was eight years her junior.

A little-known Nanjing-based newspaper, the Oriental Guardian, broke the story on Thursday, claiming Fang had been arrested for spying as early as May 12. It cited a blog written by Peking University associate professor Zhou Yijun, better known as 'Ayi' - a part-time television host.

Fang started anchoring prime-time news bulletins on China Central Television's international channel at the age of 23, and she has hosted several of the national broadcaster's flagship programmes.

The newspaper said Fang applied to host Defence Watch, a panel discussion programme on military issues, in order to gather intelligence.

Mainstream state media outlets scrambled to grab their share of the gossip. The People's Daily party mouthpiece ran the story on its website, and the China Daily confirmed yesterday on its front page that Fang was under investigation for spying, quoting Zhang Zhaozhong, an expert at the National Defence University.

However, by last night the reports had been removed from the websites, and a Xinhua report quoting the China Daily had also disappeared.

Professor Zhang noted that Fang last appeared on Defence Watch on March 1.

Last night, Fang rejected the espionage accusations in a newly created blog and threatened legal action against 'those behind the rumour'.

'No personnel from any department have questioned me on any issue whatsoever,' she said. 'The article [Ayi] wrote came from nowhere. I will use the law to protect my legal rights.'

She said CCTV bosses had assigned her to the military programme. She said it was an area in which she took no personal interest, but she refused to say why she had been absent from the programme since March.

However, sources said rumours of investigations into the spying allegations had been around for a while.

One journalist, who did not want to be named, said: 'All I can confirm is that she has been investigated by state security police but was released without any concrete charges.'

A CCTV source said Fang was well connected at the national broadcaster and was frequently seen at expats' parties. 'She is almost certain to lose her presenter's job, but it's not clear what other action she will face,' the source said.

The unusual saga underscored the crisis facing CCTV. It is being viewed as an industry bully, and is increasingly scrutinised and ridiculed for any glitches and scandals.

In February, a fire at CCTV's new complex in downtown Beijing caused by illegal fireworks killed a fireman and sparked public anger at the broadcaster.