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Chinese news anchor accused of spying

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that a Chinese news anchor for a state-owned TV channel has been accused of espionage after a message was posted online by a researcher at a central government think tank.

Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao Daily reported on September 11, 2014 that Rui Chenggang, 37, has been accused of spying. Rui, who speaks fluent English, became the Chinese economic news anchor for China Central Television (CCTV) in 2003. He has been held in detention since July 11.

Ming Pao said Wang Guoxiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote on social platform Sina Weibo: "You (Rui) do so much more money but are also a special agent. Is (your) brain broken?" Although the message did not say anything further, the report said Rui may have been involved in the disclosure in 2010 of information about the family wealth of President Xi Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao.

Rui was detained by Beijing police after his longtime patron, Guo Zhenxi, the head of state-run CCTV's financial news channel, was detained for allegedly accepting bribes. According to official news agency Xinhua, Rui's detention is closely linked to Guo's case and to allegations relating to his professional ethics.

The New York Times reported that Rui co-founded a public relations company called Pegasus in 2002. CCTV became a client of Pegasus between 2009 and 2010, when Rui was still a stakeholder in the firm.

A journalist told the IFJ: "Such a rumour has been circulating in the industry for a while, but I don't know whether it is true or not. However, there needs to be concern about Rui's professional ethics."

The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: "It is deeply worrying that a journalist has been accused of being a special agent while the Ministry of China is asking the National People's Congress Standing Committee to change the 'State Security' law to the 'Fighting against Espionage' law. Under the proposal, law enforcement bodies will have greater powers to interrogate individuals and freeze the property of any person or non-governmental organization that has contact with foreigners or overseas NGOs.

"We are opposed to any violations of professional ethics by journalists. However, it is always necessary for journalists to contact people, regardless of their nationality. We are opposed to any detention without charge, whether it is two days or 20 years long".

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