Leading CCTV broadcaster Rui Chenggang taken from studio and detained in graft probe

Rui Chenggang's sudden departure leaves an empty chair during a Friday night broadcast

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 10:03pm

A leading anchor with China Central Television was taken away for investigation on Friday, mainland media reported.

Rui Chenggang's sudden departure left an empty seat beside his co-host when his show aired that night.

Rui, who hosts the popular Economic News programme, was taken away by prosecutors along with Li Yong, deputy director of CCTV's financial news channel, and an unnamed producer, Caixin Online reported yesterday.

Several high-profile figures at the state broadcaster have been detained in recent months as part of graft investigations.

The report said more than one million yuan (HK$1.25 million) in cash was found in Li's office.

Li was due to depart for Brazil on Friday to report on President Xi Jinping's visit to South America and his attendance at the BRICS summit of leading emerging-market economies, Caixin said, citing unnamed CCTV sources.

Watch: Rui Chenggang questions US President Barack Obama during G20 summit in 2010

Rui was scheduled to host Economic News with co-host Xie Yingying that night. A message on the show's Weibo account posted before the broadcast listed both their names, but only Xie appeared. Rui's seat was vacant, while his microphone remained on the anchor's desk.

Rui was taken directly from CCTV premises and programme staff were not informed. His mobile phone was switched off, and CCTV could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Caixin report did not give reasons for the detention, but it comes after the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on June 1 that the broadcaster's director Guo Zhenxi, and producer Tian Liwu were taken into custody on suspicion of corruption.

Wang Shijie, a producer close to Guo, was also taken away for investigation, Caixin reported.

Following their detention, rumours circulated that Rui was implicated in the investigation into Guo, which Rui denied. He continued to host his programme, and posted pictures on his Weibo account of his interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on June 3.

Rui's most recent message on the account is dated Thursday, and says he will be on air soon.

The Caixin report said auditors sent to the broadcaster found more than 1 million yuan in cash in Li's office, but the money might not be related to his detention. It said he did not have personal or business connections with Guo.

Li, 46, began working for CCTV in 1993, and was closely involved in setting up the financial news channel.

Rui, 36, joined in 2003, and has more than once caused controversy. He described the opening of a Starbucks inside Beijing's Forbidden City as an "erosion of Chinese culture".

He also drew attention for his comment at a press conference for US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a G20 summit in 2010. Obama was seeking a question from the Korean press, but Rui raised his hand and said: "I'm actually Chinese. But I think I get to represent the entire Asia, [as] part of the family on this side of the world."