Sun Zhengcai, a former Politburo member once seen as a likely contender for a leadership post as high as the premiership, was delivered a life sentence for corruption this week, becoming the most recent “tiger” to be imprisoned amid Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption drive. Sun was placed under investigation and removed from his post as Party Secretary of Chongqing last July, expelled from the CCP in September, and formally indicted in February. He pled guilty to accepting 170 million yuan worth of bribes in a trial last month in Tianjin. At The Wall Street Journal, Josh Chin reports:
A court on Tuesday issued the life sentence to Sun Zhengcai, a member of the party’s ruling Politburo until his ouster last year, despite his pleading guilty and expressing regret for accepting millions of dollars in bribes at his trial last month.
Mr. Sun will also be stripped of political rights and will forfeit all his assets, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua didn’t specify a sum, though at his trial in the port city of Tianjin Mr. Sun confessed to accepting more than 170 million yuan ($26.7 million) in bribes directly or through unnamed agents.
[…] At the time of his removal, Mr. Sun was the youngest member of the Politburo and ran the inland megacity of Chongqing, and Mr. Xi was preparing for a Communist Party congress in the fall that would help him consolidate power and promote allies to senior posts.
Many China politics experts and some party insiders attribute Mr. Sun’s downfall to his reputation as a possible next-generation leader whose ties were to senior party figures other than Mr. Xi. He became the highest-ranking serving official removed in the anticorruption campaign. Shortly after the investigation was announced, Mr. Xi promoted a protégé, Chen Min’er, to take over as party chief in Chongqing. […]
[…] Many China politics experts and some party insiders attribute Mr. Sun’s downfall to his reputation as a possible next-generation leader whose ties were to senior party figures other than Mr. Xi. He became the highest-ranking serving official removed in the anticorruption campaign. Shortly after the investigation was announced, Mr. Xi promoted a protégé, Chen Min’er, to take over as party chief in Chongqing. [Source]
During the 19th Party Congress last October, Sun and other former officials were publicly accused of conspiring to seize power from Xi. During the Two Sessions in March, Sun’s successor and state media coverage continued to castigate the fallen official.
Sun’s predecessor as Party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, fell amid a flurry of scandal in 2012, and is currently also serving a life sentence for corruption. Chongqing’s current Party chief, Xi Jinping protege Chen Min’er, has continued to call for the banishment of corruption in the city since his installation last summer. The South China Morning Post’s Choi Chi-yuk and Nectar Gan survey analysis presenting Sun’s downfall, as well as Chen’s continuation of the anti-corruption drive in Chongqing, as a central government call for absolute loyalty:
Chen Daoyin, a mainland political analyst, said although Sun had been sentenced for taking bribes, his downfall was mainly caused by political problems.
In Chen’s view, the prolonged crackdown on “pernicious influences” in Chongqing sends a strong signal to provincial leaders across China.
“The message is loud and clear: local leaders should pledge absolute loyalty to the central leadership,” he said.
“Xi is now the unchallenged core of the party, and no matter if he ever decides to pick a successor or not, the political future of provincial leaders should be decided by, and only by, the central leadership – they have no room to think for themselves,” he added. [Source]
Analysts have long noted that Xi Jinping’s signature anti-corruption campaign has been a boon towards his massive consolidation of Party and state power. Recently, Premier Li Keqiang’s call for greater public supervision of government affairs to guard against corruption and the official abuse of power was censored in China. For more on Xi’s anti-corruption drive and government corruption, see prior CDT coverage.