China jails former Communist boss for life for corruption

Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai took millions in bribes, court says

Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai was sentenced to life in prison for bribery. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai was sentenced to life in prison for bribery. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

A Chinese court has sentenced Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing who was once seen as a rising political star, to life in prison for corruption.

Mr Sun (54), who was also seen as a rival of President Xi Jinping, is the latest former senior cadre taken down in Mr Xi’s war on corruption.

In April he confessed to an intermediate court in the city of Tianjin that he had taken bribes of more than 170 million yuan (€22 million).

“After the judgment was announced, Sun Zhengcai told the court he admitted his guilt, expressed repentance, accepted the decision, and said he would not appeal,” the court said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

Since Mr Xi came to power in 2012 he has made tracking down corrupt elite “tigers” and “flies” at the grassroots level a cornerstone of his administration and hundreds of thousands of officials have been punished as part of the campaign.

Mr Sun’s removal from the Chongqing post in July, months ahead of the five-yearly 19th party congress that cemented Mr Xi’s grip on power, came as a surprise.

In January 2017, Mr Sun and Mr Xi stood side-by-side as they inspected port facilities in the southwestern city, which is often described as the biggest city in the world with a municipal population of some 32 million.

Mr Sun was replaced in Chongqing by Chen Min’er, a former aide and protégé of Mr Xi who was elevated to the 25-member Politburo at the national party congress in October.

The highest profile casualties of the campaign so far have included Zhou Yongkang in 2015, who was domestic security chief and also a top party official in the powerful state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

Other big names include Ling Jihua, a trusted adviser of former president Hu Jintao, and senior military figures Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.

Between 2012 and 2017, 35 full and alternate members of the Communist Party’s powerful Central Committee have been disciplined, which is as many as in the period between the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and 2012.

Previously big-name corrupt officials would have been retired or eased out of office, but Mr Xi has taken a more aggressive approach.

Another key rival of Mr Xi, Bo Xilai, who like Mr Sun was also party secretary in Chongqing, was sentenced to life in prison for corruption in 2013.

Mr Sun’s fate was never in doubt as the party controls the courts and a guilty charge almost always results in conviction.

The party rejects criticism that the anti-corruption campaign is about silencing political opponents and weeding out rivals as much as it is about stamping out graft.