Former CCP rising star said under investigation

Reuters, BEIJING

Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 1

A senior Chinese official who was considered a contender for top leadership has been put under investigation, three sources with ties to the leadership said, ahead of a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) congress in the autumn where Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is expected to cement his grip on power.

Sun Zhengcai (孫政才) had been the CCP secretary of Chongqing, until an abrupt announcement on Saturday morning that he no longer had the position and had been replaced by a rising political star close to Xi.

The announcement, carried by Xinhua news agency, did not say Sun either had a new position or use wording to suggest he was waiting for a further appointment.

A source who has been briefed on the matter said Sun is suspected of “serious discipline violations,” a term that can encompass everything from taking bribes to not toeing the party line.

The source added that it was a “conversation investigation,” meaning it is not yet at the stage of a formal probe.

A second source with ties to the leadership told reporters that Sun is undergoing investigation for suspected “violation of political discipline.”

“But he is still a comrade. He is still a [Chinese] Politburo member,” the source said, referring to the party’s 25-member decisionmaking body.

Officials are stripped of their title “comrade” once a formal legal case is filed against them and they are expelled from the CCP. Officials are sometimes put under investigation, but not formally charged.

However, once a party announcement about a probe is publicly announced they are almost always punished.

Taiwan and Hong Kong media outlets, as well as the Wall Street Journal, have also reported Sun is being investigated.

Sun did not appear on Chongqing TV’s Saturday evening broadcast when Chongqing Secretary Chen Miner (陳敏爾), was introduced to Chinese Politburo member Zhao Leji (趙樂際), who heads the powerful organization department which oversees personnel decisions.

Zhao made the announcement about the probe at the Chongqing meeting, the first source added.

When Beijing Acting Mayor Cai Qi (蔡奇) was announced in May, Zhao not only introduced Cai, but Cai’s predecessor, Guo Jinlong (郭金龍), was also present at the meeting and gave a speech, according to the Beijing City Government’s account of the event.

A third source with ties to the leadership said it was unusual that Sun was not present or mentioned at all in the meeting where Chen was presented as new Chongqing secretary.

The source said the Chongqing meeting was told that Sun had committed “political mistakes.”

The three sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to foreign media, said Sun is in Beijing.

Chongqing is perhaps best known for its association with its disgraced former party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來), once himself a contender for top leadership before being jailed for life in 2013 in a dramatic corruption scandal.

Sources with ties to the leadership and foreign diplomats said Sun has been out of favor after the party’s anti-corruption watchdog in February criticized Chongqing authorities for not doing enough to root out Bo’s influence.

At that meeting, Sun said he accepted the watchdog’s assessment “without question,” according to a party statement at the time.