BEIJING – Sun Zhengcai, a former political high-flyer once tipped to be among China’s next generation of leaders, was sentenced to life in prison for bribery in a northern city on Tuesday.
The Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People’s Court said Sun was convicted of taking more than 170 million yuan (US$26.7 million) in bribes directly or through designated third parties, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
He was also stripped of his political rights for life, and all his property and illicit gains confiscated, the report said.
Sun, 54, pleaded guilty at his trial on April 12 and would not appeal against the sentence, state television reported.
“I sincerely confess to and regret the crimes [I committed]. [I] accept the court’s verdict [and] will not appeal,” Sun said in court in footage aired by China Central Television. “I will earnestly accept re-education.”
The amount of bribes involved was punishable by death but the court said it took mitigating factors into account, including that most of the bribes were taken by “designated parties” and that Sun gave investigators additional, previously unknown information about his crimes.
Chinese news outlet Caixin had reported that Sun’s “designated parties” included two businesswomen.
The court said Sun committed the crimes while he was a district Communist Party boss in Beijing in 2002, when he was the minister of agriculture, and during his stints as party chief of northeastern Jilin province and the megacity of Chongqing.
The court said Sun took advantage of his position to seek profits for others, including helping others to win project tenders, secure government approvals on projects and gain promotions.
Sun was sacked as Chongqing’s party boss in July and placed under investigation for corruption in the run-up to the party’s national leadership reshuffle in October.
He was the youngest member of the Politburo before he was expelled and was once widely considered a strong candidate to sit on the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese leadership’s inner sanctum.
Sun’s predecessor, Bo Xilai, was also a Politburo member before he was investigated in 2012 and ordered to serve life in prison for corruption and abuse of power.
Sun was replaced in Chongqing by Chen Miner, a protégé of President Xi Jinping and a rising political star. Chen was promoted to the 25-member Politburo in October’s national party congress.