Chinese TV Hosts Who Attended Zhou Zhengyi's Birthday Bash Suspended

Chinese TV Hosts Who Attended Zhou Zhengyi's Birthday Bash Suspended Zhou Zhengyi is shown (left) in an undated photo next to a screenshot from his April 23 party in Shanghai.
AFP/screenshot from video

Six high-profile state TV anchors in Shanghai have been suspended by their employers after they attended a recent birthday party for businessman Zhou Zhengyi following his early release from a 16-year jail term for "bribery" and "embezzlement."

Zhou threw a lavish 60th-birthday bash at a five-star hotel on the Bund in Shanghai on April 23, which was attended by several presenters and hosts from state-run Dragon Television.

Video clips from the star-studded event went viral on social media platforms in China, showing Zhou roaming around the venue, taking photos with guests, in obviously high spirits.

All six presenters have now been suspended, RFA has learned.

A person familiar with the situation who gave only a surname Fang, said an investigation team had arrived from Beijing just a few days ago to investigate the hosts' attendance at the party.

"It's not even the municipal government investigating any more," Fang said. "An investigation team from the central government has arrived."

He said other high-profile figures had been found to have attended alongside the TV anchors.

"Several senior executives of the Shanghai Media Group went to the party as well," he said. "They didn't admit it at first, but they were exposed by other people."

The six TV anchors had initially claimed to have been there in a personal capacity, but Fang said they had each charged 100,000 yuan as a fee for their presence at the event.

The central investigators for the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will also be looking into how Zheng got out of prison two years before completing his sentence, he said.

The Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court would be among the targets of the investigation, for approving his early release, sources said.

'Glitzy celebration'

In a screenshot of a reply to a request for information from the Shanghai branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s propaganda department, Dragon TV said six of its presenters and show hosts had attended the glitzy celebration at the Wanda Ruihua hotel on the Bund in Shanghai on Sunday.

They were named as Cheng Lei, Chen Rong, Zhu Zhen, Ni Lin, Fang Haiyan, and Dai Liufei. A seventh presenter, Gao Yuan, was named, but wasn't a Dragon TV employee, it said, claiming that no fees had been charged.

Another screenshot reported that Gao Yuan had discovered they were on an official media blacklist since the party, while another showed an invitee turning down the glitzy invitation for fear of political repercussions.

Zhou, who served 13 years of his prison term, recently took a job as "adviser" to a cosmetics and skincare company in Shanghai.

Known in Hong Kong as Chau Ching-ngai, where he is wanted by the city's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Zhou was once Shanghai’s richest man and the 11th richest in mainland China, with an estimated fortune of U.S.$320 million from property development and stock market speculation.

Zhou's case was linked to the downfall of former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu, who is currently serving an 18-year jail term for misuse of Shanghai's social security fund.

Hong Kong's ICAC wants to question him in connection with fraud allegations linked to publicly listed companies there.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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