Sun Zhengcai, once designated as Xi Jinping’s successor, sentenced to life
by Wang Zhicheng

Sun has admitted that he pocketed 170 million yuan throughout his career, even helping two lovers to earn profits. Since 2012, at least 1.4 million Party representatives have been tried and convicted; more than 250 senior Party members have been dismissed. In all likelihood, Sun's life imprisonment will be in a prison that resembles a "5-star hotel".

Tianjin (AsiaNews) - Sun Zhengcai, once designated as the successor of Xi Jinping, was sentenced to life imprisonment today by Tianjin’s Intermediate Court n. 1.

Sun has been accused of pocketing 170 million yuan (about 23 million euros) from 2002 to 2017 throughout his career as a Party secretary in a Beijing district, then as Minister of Agriculture, as Party Secretary in Jilin and finally in the metropolis of Chongqing.

According to the indictment Sun, 54, used his office in the government and in the party to help two lovers, including Liu Fengzhou, to whom he has long been linked, helping them and others to make profits, win contracts, and government approvals on different projects, sell promotions.

According to the court, the volume of his illicit earnings is such that he deserves a death sentence, but since he admitted guilt and showed regret and collaborated to find other people related to his chain of corruption, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Sun was the youngest member of the Politburo, expelled from the party last September. He was often compared to Bo Xilai, also a Chongqing secretary and also sentenced in 2013 to life imprisonment for corruption.

According to Xinhua, all of Sun’s "illegal profits" will be confiscated. Sun is the latest leading figure to fall under the campaign launched by Xi Jinping to stop rampant corruption in the Party. Since Xi was elected president, at least 1.4 million Party representatives, including "tigers" and "flies", big and small officials, have been tried and convicted; more than 250 senior members of the Party have been dismissed.

Many analysts, however, think that the anti-corruption campaign is a tool for Xi to eliminate his political enemies and keep his opponents at bay. At the same time, life imprisonment sentences appear to be only at face value: high Party members usually spend a few years in prisons that look like "5-star hotels" and are later pardoned.