Communist Party expels former high-flyer Sun Zhengcai in countdown to key congress
Ex-Chongqing boss stripped of official titles as party prepares for changing of the leadership guard
Former political star Sun Zhengcai has been expelled from China’s Communist Party and will face prosecution, state media reported on Friday – two months after his shock downfall and just weeks before a key five-yearly leadership reshuffle.
Sun, once seen as a front runner for the highest reaches of political power, was dumped as the party boss of the megacity Chongqing in July and investigated by party graft-busters for “serious violations of party discipline”.
Xinhua reported that he had been stripped of all official titles, meaning the former high-flying politician had been removed from the 25-member Politburo, the party’s powerful decision-making body.
The report said Sun had been handed over to judicial authorities for further investigation, meaning he faced criminal prosecution.
Xinhua also reported that the investigation uncovered other evidence of Sun’s alleged crimes, suggesting the probe was not over and more developments were to come.
Sun’s expulsion was decided by the Politburo on Friday when it reviewed the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s investigation report on the former Chongqing boss.
The investigation found that Sun had “abandoned the party’s aims, forfeited his political stand and seriously trampled on the party’s political discipline and rules”, Xinhua reported, citing the CCDI’s investigation.
Without giving details, the report said Sun was accused of a long list of wrongdoings, from nepotism to leaking party secrets.
He had also allegedly abused his power to benefit others and took huge bribes for himself and his family, according to the report.
Investigators also took aim at Sun’s private life and approach to work, berating him for being “severely bureaucratic” and “lazy and inactive”. Sun had become “corrupt and degenerate” and exchanged money for sex, the report said.
But in an unusual move, Xinhua issued a correction to its report late on Friday night, toning down the accusations against Sun. The state news agency said Sun had “shaken his political stand” – not that he “forfeited his political stand” as it had reported. It also said Sun had “seriously violated the party’s political discipline and rules”, not that he had “seriously trampled on” them.
At 54, Sun was the youngest member of the Politburo and was widely considered a strong candidate to be elevated into its inner sanctum, the Politburo Standing Committee, at the party’s national congress next month.
But the high-flyer came back to earth with his unexpected dismissal as Chongqing’s party boss.
He was replaced by Chen Miner, a close protégé of President Xi Jinping and the party’s brightest rising political star. Chen is now a shoo-in for the Politburo and some have suggested he might even have a shot at the Standing Committee.
Sun is the most senior serving politician to be snared in Xi’s signature anti-corruption campaign, a crackdown on deep-rooted graft that has also purged the president’s political rivals and instilled discipline and loyalty in the ranks.
He was the second Chongqing party chief to be ousted in five years – flamboyant princeling Bo Xilai ruled the metropolis from 2007 until his dismissal in 2012.
Bo is serving a life sentence for corruption but his presence continued to haunt the city – at least according to the party’s discipline inspectors.
After an inspection tour in February, they chastised Sun for not having completely rooted out the “pernicious ideology legacy” left by Bo and his right-hand man Wang Lijun. The dressing-down at a politically sensitive time before the autumn congress was seen by some at the time as an omen of Sun’s political future.