Propaganda officials in Shanghai are investigating the appearance of several high-profile TV presenters at a recent birthday party for businessman Zhou Zhengyi after his early release from a 16-year sentence of prison for “corruption” and “embezzlement”.
Zhou hosted a lavish 60th birthday party at a five-star Bund hotel in Shanghai last weekend, which was attended by several presenters and hosts from national Dragon Television.
Video clips from the star-studded event have gone viral on social media platforms in China, showing Zhou wandering the premises, taking photos with guests, obviously in a good mood.
The hosts were reportedly subsequently subjected to investigation and sanctions from their employers, as the Shanghai branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Propaganda Department leaned into the matter, after watching video clips online, according to screenshots seen by RFA.
In a screenshot of a response to a request for information from the Shanghai branch of the propaganda department of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Dragon TV said that six of its presenters and hosts attended the lavish celebration at the Wanda Ruihua hotel on the Bund in Shanghai on Sunday.
They have been named Cheng Lei, Chen Rong, Zhu Zhen, Ni Lin, Fang Haiyan, and Dai Liufei. A seventh presenter, Gao Yuan, was appointed, but was not an employee of Dragon TV, he said.
“Hosts have not charged any fees for attending this event,” the post read.
Another screenshot reported that Gao Yuan discovered they had been blacklisted by official media since the party, while another showed a guest declining the glitzy invitation for fear of political repercussions.
A Shanghai businesswoman surnamed Zhang said Dragon TV informed the presenters that they were “breaking the rules” to attend Zhou’s party.
“They say now [to the propaganda department] that the hosts were not present as TV hosts and that they did not represent their employer at the reception, ”she said.
Stricter controls under Xi
The Shanghai Municipal Radio and Television Bureau said it would “conduct further investigations” and called on the hosts’ employers to “conduct interviews with the hosts in question as soon as possible and deal with the matter properly. thereafter “.
Zhang said Zhou probably underestimated the tight political controls currently exercised over public figures under CCP leader Xi Jinping, after spending more than a decade in prison.
“He didn’t really read the current political situation very well, because it’s completely different from before he went to jail,” Zhang said.
Zhou’s fortune is now largely controlled by his Hong Kong-based wife Mao Yuping, Zhang said.
“Zhou’s wife helped him keep his fortune; she is now in Hong Kong, ”she said. “He will have been treated well in prison.”
Zhou, who has served 13 years of his prison sentence, recently accepted a position as an “advisor” at a cosmetics and skin care 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 the richest man in Shanghai and the 11th richest in mainland China. , with an estimated fortune of US $ 320 million from real estate development. and stock market speculation.
Zhou’s case was linked to the fall of former Shanghai party leader Chen Liangyu, who is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence for abuse of the Shanghai social security fund.
The Hong Kong ICAC wants to question him about fraud allegations linked to companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Reported by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service of RFA. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.