The latest target in China President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive is state media, and the broadcaster CCTV in particular. According to one tally, eight staffers from CCTV’s financial channel have been detained recently, none bigger than anchor Rui Chenggang late last week.
Rui, 37, is a star in some Chinese circles, a sharp mind, nationalistic, and unafraid to stir up controversy, like the time he successfully petitioned to remove Starbucks from the Forbidden City in Beijing.
What came to light in a Sunday article by Tencent, the Chinese Internet company, and later confirmed by China’s official Communist Party paper, People’s Daily, is that Rui held a stake in a public relations company that in turn got jobs from CCTV. It might be the most obvious form of a conflict of interest.
Rui’s PR firm, called Pegasus, was acquired by the global PR powerhouse Edelman back in 2007. Edelman has released press statements saying that they are investigating the news and Rui’s holdings in the subsidiary.
Even away from the PR business, Rui has a reputation for having a well-developed sense of financial self-interest. One businessman recalls privately a demand for $33,000 to host a business conference, as well as first-class travel tickets for him and his assistants. When it was suggested that the price was a little high, Rui quickly threatened to take his star quality to a different conference.
Rui’s detention apparently came as a big surprise at CCTV. Before co-hosting a program on Friday night, he was taken away by prosecutors so quickly that his microphone still remained on his empty chair.
In a one-party state like China, real information on arrests is hard to come by, and the vacuum is often filled with rumors and speculation. In Rui’s case, the Chinese version of Twitter is filled with stories of a love affair and millions in cash.
Already, reports of his conflicts of interest seem enough for Party investigators to go on.