Former Beijing party chief Chen Xitong was jailed for 16 years yesterday for corruption and dereliction of duty. It is the harshest criminal punishment of a politburo member since the Gang of Four's trial and the first time one of the leaders responsible for the Tiananmen Square massacre has been brought down and humiliated. Chen was once regarded as a rival to President Jiang Zemin. The evening news showed Chen, dressed in a casual blue windbreaker and an open-necked shirt, shifting from foot to foot as the sentence was read out. Now 68, he looked in good health with a full head of hair. Other clips showed an array of gold watches, cameras and silverware, including a model coach and horses, which he accepted as bribes. In an earlier hearing, Chen was shown relaxed and smiling as he defended himself. He is hated by many Beijingers since the 1989 killings. Yesterday many said they applauded the sentence, although some thought he deserved the death penalty. The sentence was announced by the Beijing Higher People's Court, although the trial was held in secret on July 20, more than three years after Chen was arrested and stripped of his posts. The arrest followed the mysterious suicide of his deputy, Wang Baosen, whose body was found on a mountainside near a remote village in Huairou county where he used to go hunting. Chen has 10 days in which to appeal but this is likely to be a formality. He was formally arrested in February, but since last year is believed to have been in Fuxing Hospital suffering from heart disease. His son, Chen Xiaotong, is already serving a 12-year prison sentence. Twelve years of the senior Chen's sentence were for corruption. Xinhua said the judges found that Chen had misappropriated 22 gifts valued at 555,000 yuan (HK$518,900) which he had obtained from official contacts from July 1991 to 1994. The items included eight gold and silver products, four expensive pens, three cameras and one video camera, which he should have passed to the state. All the bribes are to be confiscated and handed over to the state. Xinhua said testimony and written documents proved Chen, 'in pursuit of a corrupt and decadent life', had instigated and conspired with Wang to build two luxurious villas with public funds. 'From January 1993 to February 1995, Chen frequented the two villas for extravagant wining, dining and personal entertainment,' the verdict said. Altogether the two spent 35 million yuan on the villas, 2.42 million on maintaining them and one million on wining and dining. Chen was sentenced to four years for dereliction of duty. Xinhua said he and Wang had conspired to embezzle funds as well as abuse their power in approving property deals. 'Their actions were contrary to the examination and approval procedures set by the state regarding capital construction projects,' the report said, referring to Beijing's property boom when Hong Kong property developers poured money into the capital. During this period, Chen and his cronies are said to have diverted more than two billion yuan of municipal funds. But the report referred only to 'extraordinarily huge amounts of money' and said their actions caused 'huge losses of public property'. Dozens of other senior members of the Beijing party committee have also been arrested and many have been sentenced. Xinhua said the trial had not been held in public in accordance with the first clause of Article 152 of the Criminal Procedural Law. The article states that cases involving state secrets or individual privacy are not open to the public. But most observers believe the sentence was decided long before by an internal party procedure.