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Chinese Prosecutors Abruptly Detain Top News Anchor In Corruption Investigation

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RUI CHENGGANG
Director and Anchor, China Central Television, Rui Chenggang moderates a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. More than two dozen senior officials from key economies will try Saturday to agree on whether to send a political signal that a new global trade deal can, at last, be completed this year as the World Economic Forum gradually comes to a close. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) | ASSOCIATED PRESS
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(Adds details on anti-corruption campaign)

BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) - Prosecutors detained a top Chinese news anchor shortly before a nightly broadcast, state media reported, as authorities extend anti-corruption efforts deeper into the country's media industry.

Rui Chenggang, the popular host of financial news programs on China Central Television (CCTV), was taken away from his studio on Friday, ruling Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily said on its Twitter account on Saturday night.

Rui's detention, along with the network's vice director of financial news Li Yong, comes a little more than a month after officials announced an investigation into suspected bribery by his boss, CCTV's advertising director and director-general of its finance and economics channel Guo Zhenxi.

The government has cracked down on official corruption and extravagance in China since the appointment last year of President Xi Jinping, who has said widespread graft threatens the party's survival.

An indication of the suddenness of Rui's detention, a second microphone appeared on the set of Friday night's "Economic News" broadcast, though it was anchored only by Rui's co-host, reported the financial news site Caixin.com.

"Rui Chenggang was directly taken away from CCTV by authorities last night (Friday) and no notice was given at the time to the program," Caixin cited an unnamed CCTV employee as saying.

Rui, 36, is one of China's most prominent business journalists, whose strongly nationalist stances and controversial remarks have helped make him a celebrity.

His prominence in China grew in 2007, after his comments on a Starbucks located in Beijing's ancient Forbidden City helped spur a public outcry that led the coffee chain to close the branch.

Rui's Twitter-like Sina microblog, on which he has more than 10 million followers, was still accessible on Sunday and some CCTV web pages still contained his biographical details.

CCTV could not be immediately reached for comment.

The network is viewed by the government as an enormously influential and useful propaganda tool abroad, and at home where Beijing keeps a tight rein on domestic media.

Critics have long pointed to corruption within the ranks at state media, arguing blackmail is widespread and that journalists are susceptible to bribery.

President Xi has vowed to take down powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" in his graft-busting campaign and inspection teams have fanned out across China.

The official Xinhua news agency reported over the weekend that inspectors had found graft in construction and land projects in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. It also said that a senior party official from the southern Yunnan province, Zhang Tianxin, had been removed from his post for suspected discipline violations, a euphemism for corruption. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)