Ex-Chongqing Communist Party boss under investigation for corruption
Announcement extinguishes former rising star’s once-bright political career
The former Chongqing Communist Party boss, Sun Zhengcai, once considered a top contender for a role in China’s next leadership line-up, is under investigation by the party’s top anti-graft agency, state-run Xinhua reported on Monday.
The announcement confirmed a South China Morning Post report last week that he was under investigation.
Sun, 53, who was replaced as Chongqing’s party chief on July 15 by a trusted protege of President Xi Jinping, is being investigated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection for “serious violations of party discipline”, an euphemism for corruption.
The one-line announcement comes just months ahead of the party’s five-yearly leadership reshuffle in the autumn and could affect the final line-up.
Before his dismissal, Sun’s seniority and relative youth was thought to give him a strong chance of being promoted to the Politburo’s inner circle, its supreme Standing Committee, at the national party congress. He is the youngest member of the 25-strong Politburo but the announcement has extinguished his once bright future.
However, the prospects for Sun’s successor, Chen Miner, are brighter than ever. Chen, a close associate of Xi since his five-year stint as Xi’s propaganda chief in Zhejiang, has been in the promotion fast lane. His new job will most likely gain him a seat on the Politburo at the autumn congress, analysts say.
Xi is widely expected to further cement power for his second term at the congress by packing the top party ranks with loyalists. With Sun out of the way, Xi was a step closer to that goal, observers said.
“The pointers are that Xi is likely to get his way, or mostly anyway, at the ... congress,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said.
Sun is the fourth sitting Politburo member to be purged since the 1990s, and the second party boss of Chongqing to fall. The dramatic downfall of his predecessor, Bo Xilai, in 2012 was one of the country’s biggest political scandals in decades.
Bo, a high-flying princeling, was suddenly sacked and put under investigation after a scandal implicated his wife in the murder of a British businessman. Bo is serving a life sentence for graft and abuse of power, while his wife is serving a life sentence for murder.
Sun and other municipal leaders in Chongqing were chastised by the party’s disciplinary inspectors in February for not having completely rooted out the “pernicious ideology residue” of Bo and his right hand man Wang Lijun – seen at the time by some as an ominous sign for Sun’s political prospects.