A former China Everbright Group chief and one-time protege of Premier Zhu Rongji has lost his appeal to overturn a lengthy prison sentence for corruption. The Beijing Higher People's Court yesterday upheld a lower court's decision last month to sentence Zhu Xiaohua to 15 years behind bars and seize his personal assets. The 53-year-old former high-flying banker was one of the most senior Chinese officials to go on trial for corruption. Last month, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court convicted him of accepting bribes worth 4.05 million yuan (about HK$3.82 million) in stock and cash between 1997 and 1999, when he was China Everbright chairman. 'The trial court's sentence was based on clear facts and solid evidence,' Xinhua yesterday quoted the higher court as saying in a much-expected decision. 'The judgment was accurate and appropriate and the trial conducted according to legal procedures. The sentence should be upheld.' The rejection of Zhu's appeal came just days before the 16th Communist Party congress begins in Beijing to unveil a major personnel reshuffle in China's top political hierarchy. Zhu's trial, three years after he was put in detention, was part of the country's anti-graft campaign. Former Bank of China president Wang Xuebing and former State Power Corp president Gao Yan are among the latest to fall from grace. However, some observers have viewed Zhu as a victim of the power struggle between Premier Zhu and the more conservative Li Peng, chairman of the National People's Congress. Others see his downfall as a personal tragedy and a consequence of insufficient supervision and control in the Chinese financial system. China Everbright is backed by the Chinese State Council, the country's ultimate decision-making body. As its head, Zhu held unfettered power. Born in 1949, he once had a stellar career, holding senior positions at the central bank and as a foreign exchange regulator until his appointment in 1996 as China Everbright head.