One-Time Potential Rival to China's Xi Draws Life Sentence

One-Time Potential Rival to China's Xi Draws Life Sentence

One-Time Potential Rival to China's Xi Draws Life Sentence

A court in China's Tianjin port city has given a life sentence to Sun Zhengcai, a former member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, for corruption.

The Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People's Court said Sun was convicted of taking more than 170 million yuan (US$26.7 million) in bribes directly or through designated third parties, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. In order to retrieve his "illegal gains", authorities are set to confiscate Sun's property and he will be deprived of his political rights for the rest of his life.

Sun said he would not appeal the sentence.

According to the prosecution, Sun had committed those crimes in the years between 2002 and 2017 during his time as a district party chief in Beijing, Minister of Agriculture, Political Bureau member of the CPC Central Committee and Party chief in north-eastern Jilin province and megacity Chongqing. But Sun's investigation was seen as part of a more far-reaching goal-his fall 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 10 years.

Prosecutors also accused Sun of taking advantage of his position to seek profits for others in project bidding, project approval, enterprise operation and personnel promotion. In February, the Communist Party announced plans to amend China's constitution to remove term limits for the president, leading many to conclude that Xi intends to rule for life.

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Sun's case mirrors the downfall of another former Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai, whose arrest shook the previous party shuffle in 2012.

In July 2017, Sun was abruptly removed from his post as the party secretary of the inland city of Chongqing, and replaced by a Xi protégé. He is the fourth sitting Politburo member to be expelled from the party since 1990.

Over a million officials of various ranks have been punished in Xi's anti-graft campaign since he came to power in 2013.

However, critics have claimed Xi has used the crusade as a way to sideline political opponents and consolidate his power over the country.

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