China jails ruling party member for life over graft

Posted May 10, 2018

Sun Zhengcai (R) walks behind Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) as they attending the fifth plenary meeting of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 15, 2013 in Beijing, China.

China's Sun Zhengcai, an ex-political star and one of the youngest Politburo members - seen as a potential contender for a top government position, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption.

Sun, 54, had once been tipped for promotion to the politburo's elite seven-member standing committee, which rules the country and is presided over by Mr Xi.

At a party meeting previous year, a senior official stated that Mr. Sun and other senior figures prosecuted in Mr. Xi's anti-corruption crackdown were "conspiring openly to usurp party leadership".

Sun was given a "lenient" sentence in exchange for his cooperation, the court in the northern port city of Tianjin said on Tuesday.

Sun said he admits his crimes and is sincerely repentant.

Announcing the verdict, the court also deprived him of his political rights for life and all his personal property was confiscated.

An open trial of Sun's case was held at the court on April 12, and information about the trial proceedings were broadcast by the court's Weibo account.

Sun and his alleged associates were accused of accepting the money and assets in return for providing help to unspecified organisations and individuals, business operations and other matters, the court said.

"Charging with corruption allows all the convenience of not releasing sensitive data while permitting the party to destroy (Sun's) reputation", he said.

His actions had "gravely damaged the normal work order of national organizations and harmed the integrity of conduct by national employees", the statement said.

Sun fell from grace just months before the Communist Party met for its twice-a-decade conference in October, and a generational transfer of power was made in key decision-making bodies.

Sun had been identified most closely with the party's China Youth League faction associated with Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, which Xi — who also heads the ruling party — has effectively sidelined in his consolidation of power.

A high profile anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi which began five years ago, has led to the downfall of a number of high-level officials.