28Chinese Court Sentences Ex-Top Communist Official to Life Term for Graft

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

Sun at Tuesday's public sentencing proceeding pleaded guilty and expressed "sincere repentance".

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.

Sun Zhengcai, a former Politburo member and party chief of Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was once tipped for a top leadership post.

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

Other high-profile figures to fall in Xi's campaign include, Zhou Yongkang, a retired member of the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, and Guo Boxiong, a former top general.

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.

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As the Wall Street Journal reports, Sun will also have all his assets and political rights removed following the sentence.

As the youngest politburo member, Sun was even seen in some quarters as a potential successor to Mr Xi. He also said he would earnestly reform himself. The large amount of illegally accepted money could have had Sun sentenced to death. However, his actions had "gravely damaged the normal work order of national organisations and harmed the integrity of conduct by national employees".

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has promoted a massive campaign as a way to stamp out corruption throughout China.

Mr Sun's fate was never in doubt as the party controls the courts and a guilty charge nearly always results in conviction.

Notably, while Sun was sentenced to life in prison for corruption, the Party appears to have found him guilty of a more serious offense - challenging Xi's unquestionable authority. Sun was sent to Chongqing to fill the void left by Bo, but he failed to wipe out his predecessor's "lingering pernicious influence", Communist Party of China investigators determined. He was abruptly removed from office ahead of the party Congress in October a year ago.

His downfall came months later.

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