(TibetanReview.net, May09, 2018) – Once seen as a potential successor to Xi Jinping as China’s top leader, former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai is now a life-term convict, found guilty of having taken nearly $27 million in bribes by abusing his position from 2002 to 2017.
The 54-year-old Sun had pleaded guilty to the bribery charge during his Apr 12 trial and his sentencing on May 8 by the First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin was only a formality.
Sun was seen as a rising star before he became snared in president Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which kicked off after the latter took power in 2012.
Sun’s investigation just months before a key leadership meeting was seen as one of the strongest signals yet in support of rumors that Xi was planning on ruling beyond the conventional two five-yearly terms.
He was abruptly removed from his post as the party secretary of the inland city of Chongqing in Jul 2017 and replaced by a Xi protégé. He was then put under investigation for violating party regulations.
It was seen as a sign that Xi did not feel bound by the order of promotion set by the previous generation of leaders.
In Sep 2017, the party’s internal discipline watchdog formally expelled Sun from the party, saying he had become “highly bureaucratic, lazy and ineffective, led a degenerate and corrupt lifestyle, engaged in money-for-sex transactions.” And in Feb 2018, he was charged with bribery by prosecutors in Tianjin.
Following Sun’s sacking, Xi picked a Politburo Standing Committee which did not have anyone in his fifties, leaving a vacancy for a potential heir apparent to him. Then, in March, he moved to abolish the presidential term limits with a constitutional amendment, dismantling the only institutional obstacle for him to rule for a third five-year term—or for life.
Sun’s case echoes the downfall of his predecessor Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party boss from 2007 to 2012, who was also once a power rival of Xi. In 2013, Bo was charged with corruption and sentenced to life in prison.
The court has said Sun was given a “lenient” sentence in light of his willingness to cooperate with the investigation. In addition to his prison term, Sun’s “stolen property has already all been confiscated,” the AFP May 8 quoted the court statement as saying.
He was deprived of his political rights for life, and all his personal property was confiscated, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency May 8. It also cited the court as saying his illegal gains and relevant yields they generated will be retrieved.