Quick Take: Former Rising Political Star Sun Zhengcai Gets Life in Prison

Sun Zhengcai a former Politburo member and party chief of the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing was found guilty of taking over 170 million yuan in bribes the First Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin says

At one point, Sun was tipped to be elevated to the powerful politburo standing committee of seven people and helmed by Xi.

Sun Zhengcai, a member of the ruling Politburo until he was unexpectedly ousted a year ago, pleaded guilty to corruption in April.

In return for the bribes, Sun and his associates allegedly provided assistance to unspecified organizations and individuals with engineering contracts, business operations and other matters, the court said.

In addition to being imprisoned, Sun was deprived of political rights for life and all of his personal property was confiscated.

Sun was given a "lenient" sentence in exchange for his cooperation, the court in the northern port city of Tianjin said on Tuesday. As the youngest politburo member, Sun was even seen in some quarters as a potential successor to Mr Xi.

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.

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Favored by Communist Party elders, Sun was seen as a rising star before he became snared in Chinese president Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, which kicked off after Xi took power in 2012. Shortly after the investigation was announced, Mr. Xi promoted a protégé, Chen Min'er, to take over as party chief in Chongqing.

The Chinese president said in April, though, that he is opposed to life-long rule, arguing that the move to amend the constitution was definitely misinterpreted by foreign observers.

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

However, bringing political charges would be "extremely explosive" for a party intent on keeping secret its inner processes, factional rivalries and methods of distributing power and privilege, Ding said.

Sun's case is interesting because it seems to signal that any challengers can be charged with a political crime. Both are serving life prison terms after being convicted of corruption or other misconduct.

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