A one-time contender for China’s presidency, Sun Zhengcai, stood trial for accepting 170 million yuan ($27 million) in bribes Thursday, signaling the end of a case that shook the country’s political elite.
The former party secretary of the southwestern municipality of Chongqing stood trial for “bribery and other crimes,” the Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said on its official Weibo account. Sun was accused of abusing his power to provide positions, contracts and other government support in exchange for money and property from 2002 to 2017, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing an indictment.
While it was unclear when the verdict would be announced, the trials of such officials are carefully choreographed affairs and state television showed footage of Sun confessing. “This is the outcome of my own deeds and I deserve all of this. I sincerely confess my illegal actions with regret and will obey the court’s decision,” he said.
Sun, 54, was until last year the youngest member of the party’s Politburo and the only sitting member of that 25-seat body prosecuted during President Xi Jinping’s five-year campaign against corruption. His dramatic arrest in July last year rattled the ruling party just three months before a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle in which Xi broke with his predecessor’s example and promoted no potential successors.
The case mirrors the downfall of another former Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai, whose arrest jolted the previous party shuffle in 2012. Bo, who was touted at the time as a potential future leader, is now serving a life sentence in prison for graft and abuse of power.
Sun “took advantage of the privileges” of his long political career, Xinhua said in February while announcing his indictment. It has not been possible to reach Sun for comment, and it is unclear whether he has a lawyer.
During the period cited in the indictment, Sun also served as agriculture minister and held positions in Jilin province and the capital Beijing. His posts in Chongqing and on the Politburo were subsequently filled by former Guizhou party chief Chen Miner, another rising star and a close ally of Xi’s.
Chen told a meeting on the sidelines of the national legislative sessions last month that the party was working to “detoxify” the local government of Sun’s influence. The state-owned Chongqing Daily denounced Sun’s actions, calling his case “typical of political corruption” and describing him as “arbitrary and irresponsible.”