Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Former CCP Politburo member pleads guilty to bribery, ‘expresses penitence’

AFP, TIANJIN, China

A former top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official who was once tipped for a leadership post pleaded guilty at his bribery trial yesterday, the latest target of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) sweeping anti-corruption crusade.

Sun Zhengcai (孫政才), a former CCP Politburo member and party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, was accused by the prosecution of taking advantage of his position to seek profits for others and illegally accepting a large amount of money and goods, the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said on its microblog.

Sun pleaded guilty and “expressed penitence,” the court in northern Tianjin said, adding that it would make a ruling at a later date.

More than 130 people attended the trial, including members of the country’s top political advisory board and reporters, the court said.

However, about 20 plainclothes officers prevented an Agence France-Presse reporter from entering the court and surrounded the journalist for more than 20 minutes, saying that she should have registered to attend the hearing in advance.

One officer pushed the journalist back and shouted.

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 Xi.

As the youngest Politburo member, Sun was even seen in some quarters as a potential successor to Xi.

Sun was the first serving member of the elite 25-person Politburo to be placed under investigation since Bo Xilai (薄熙來), another former leader of Chongqing who was jailed for life in 2013.

Government corruption is rampant in China, and Xi has presided over a much-publicized anti-graft campaign since rising to power in 2012, but some have compared it to a political purge.

Xi, who has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong (毛澤東), now has a path to rule for life after the rubber-stamp Chinese National People’s Congress lifted presidential term limits last month.

The legislature also expanded Xi’s anti-graft campaign by creating a national supervision commission that would look beyond party officials and scrutinize millions of public servants at all levels of government.

Sun’s case showed that the party had some concerns about potential vulnerabilities to its rule.

In October last year, senior party official Liu Shiyu (劉士餘) congratulated Xi for foiling the efforts of powerful officials who “plotted to usurp the party’s leadership and seize state power.”

Liu listed former security czar Zhou Yongkang (周永康) alongside Sun and Bo as part of the conspiracy, which was rumored to have involved military officials.

All three have been ousted from the CCP and arrested or jailed on corruption charges.

Sun was expelled from the CCP in September last year after an investigation by the party’s disciplinary body found that he had abused his position by taking bribes and trading power for sex.

Sun was also accused at the time of nepotism, sloth, leaking confidential party information and betraying party principles.

As the country’s fourth-largest city and a southwestern industrial metropolis, Chongqing is a major post for ambitious politicians. When Sun became Chongqing’s chief in 2012, he was tasked with erasing Bo’s influence on the city.

However, last year the party’s discipline inspectors publicly rebuked Sun for failing to get the job done, and his downfall came months later.

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