Public relations firm Edelman has confirmed it had business ties with a leading Chinese TV presenter who was detained by the authorities last week.
Rui Chenggang, a provocative host of the economic and financial programme Economic News, was last seen on air on Thursday and appears to have been arrested on Friday shortly before failing to appear on his show. The People’s Daily, China’s communist party mouthpiece, announced on Saturday that Mr Rui had been taken away by prosecutors.
The China Central Television host appears to be the latest target in an anti-corruption drive launched by President Xi Jinping last year. Pledging to take on both “tigers and flies”, Mr Xi has purged several senior officials and military men, although critics say the probes have focused on political opponents.
Mr Rui is hardly a powerful figure in his own right, but appears to have been embroiled in a corruption case built against his former boss, CCTV’s financial news channel director Guo Zhenxi, who was arrested in June.
It was unclear what charges, if any, would be brought against Mr Rui. However, in an email statement sent to western media, US-based Edelman confirmed a Chinese report that in 2007 it had bought a 78 per cent stake in Pegasus Communications, a PR firm launched by Mr Rui and two partners in 2002.
Mr Rui apparently owned an 8 per cent stake in Pegasus until 2010, even though Pegasus continued to do business with the TV host’s employer, CCTV. Notably, Pegasus provided services to CCTV during the 2009 and 2010 World Economic Forums in Davos, Switzerland. It is not clear whether these facts had anything to do with Mr Rui’s arrest or even whether the arrangements violated any Chinese laws.
Edelman explained in their email that “Pegasus was engaged by corporate sponsors involved in underwriting CCTV’s presence at Davos” and added that the firm is “taking this matter very seriously” and continuing to gather facts.
CCTV itself has thus far failed to report on the entire saga, which has played loudly in the rest of the Chinese media, both state and private. “CCTV are in hiding. They are awaiting their fate” said Michael Anti, a Beijing-based blogger and journalist.
Mr Rui, who speaks fluent English and was a fixture on the international business and policy circuit, cultivated a reputation for brashness and arrogance, once telling US President Barack Obama that he “represented all of Asia” during a press conference.
Political observers have connected the case against Mr Rui to political intrigues in the upper echelon of the Chinese elite. In late June, Mr Guo was arrested by prosecutors on charges of corruption. He in turn appears to have been ensnared in a political vendetta against allies of former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who has been reportedly in detention since late last year.
Mr Guo was an ally and former subordinate of Li Dongsheng, former vice-minister for public security and a 22-year veteran of CCTV, who was in turn a close associate of Mr Zhou. Mr Li was placed under investigation by the authorities last December.
“Mr Rui was a bit player. He wasn’t a bad guy, he was just arrogant” said Mr Anti.
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