'Rock star' China journalist Rui Chenggang is arrested

  • 14 July 2014
In this 29 Jan 2011 file photo, director and anchor of China Central Television Rui Chenggang moderates a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Mr Rui is one of China's highest profile TV presenters and has moderated sessions at the World Economic Forum

Last Friday, when the popular host Rui Chenggang failed to appear for his daily business programme, Economic News, some of his colleagues at China Central Television (CCTV) initially did not think anything was wrong.

CCTV staff told the BBC that Mr Rui had a habit of running late - even, on occasions, missing his own shows.

So, the hour-long daily programme started with Mr Rui's empty chair and microphone visible to viewers while his co-host took up the slack.

Surely, thought Mr Rui's colleagues, he would turn up soon. But the presenter did not.

Over the weekend it became clear that Mr Rui's no-show was far more serious than a spot of tardiness.

State media reported that Mr Rui had been abruptly detained on Friday along with a senior CCTV executive.

His arrest comes less than two months after his boss was detained on suspicion of taking bribes, and it is said that Mr Rui's arrest has to do with an ongoing crackdown on corruption in CCTV.

The government has not yet confirmed the detentions.

With millions of followers on Chinese social media, Mr Rui is one of China's highest profile TV presenters.

Now he has the notoriety of being the best known celebrity to be brought down by the ruling Communist Party's current crackdown on corruption.

He developed a reputation for brashness and cockiness that won him public attention but not always the affection of his fellow journalists.

Mr Rui first shot to prominence after leading a successful nationalistic campaign to get the government to remove a Starbucks coffee shop from the historic Forbidden City.

He then raised yet more eyebrows when during a press conference with Barack Obama he told the US President he could represent "all of Asia" with his question.

According to his CCTV profile, he interviewed the global elite including the former US president, Bill Clinton, and the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

Rui Chenggang, Director and anchor of China Central Televison (CCTV) talks during a CCTV televised debate focusing on China's growth at the World Economic Forum on 29 January 2010 in Davos.
With millions of followers on Chinese social media, Mr Rui is one of China's highest profile TV presenters
Coffee cups sit on the windowsill at the Starbucks coffee shop in Beijing's Forbidden City on 18 January 2007.
Mr Rui led a successful campaign to get the government to remove a Starbucks outlet from the Forbidden City

While presenting a BBC radio documentary on the Chinese economy, it was clear that he was used to the rock star lifestyle.

Corruption is common in Chinese state media with some journalists, for example, regularly accepting payments for interviews in return for flattering coverage. A journalist like Mr Rui who has a taste for sharp suits and fast cars has inevitably led to speculation.

News of Mr Rui's detention divided public opinion.

"Brother Rui, what's going on?," posted one fan on Mr Rui's Weibo account - China's version of Twitter. "Please come back soon. I know you are clean. We trust you."

Another posted: "I'm not surprised at all. He is such a selfish, arrogant and aggressive man."