One of the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders, Sun Zhengcai, was sentenced to prison in May this year after being found guilty of corruption. And this is seen as only the continuing of Beijing’s proposed crackdown on the “unwanted” elements within its power hierarchy.
Sun is accused to have taken bribes of more than US$25 million over a period of about 15 years (from 2005 to 2017) while being a member of the politburo. The bribes were accepted in cash and property from people for whom he secured government tenders and projects.
By committing such crimes, Sun has been held responsible for distorting the policies of the government to suit his own vested interests, launching projects that never benefitted the people in any manner, and neglecting to take care of the safety and security needs of the people by remaining absent from disaster-hit areas.
“I sincerely admit my guilt and regret my crime; I will seriously reform myself,” CNN quotes Sun as saying in the people’s court. The court has sentenced him to life imprisonment in view of his crimes. After the verdict, Sun’s political rights were stripped and all the wealth he gained through the influence of his post were confiscated by the government.
Nine months prior to his arrest, Sun was sacked from the position of the Party head of a city. Before being expelled, he was the youngest member of the Party’s politburo. Curiously, he was also known to be a video addict. In fact, it is reported that he would keep his aides waiting outside the vehicle when playing his favorite game “King of Glory.”
Aged 54, Sun will now spend the rest of his life behind bars. Meanwhile, his post has been filled by Chen Min’er, who is considered to be a rising star in political circles.
The potential leader
Believe it or not, Sun was once considered to be the future leader of China. The man was supposed to succeed the current Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. But with this verdict, the Party has to look somewhere else for a successor to Xi.
However, several other leaders have also been increasingly rounded up on suspicions of bribes or anti-national activities since Xi started a crackdown on corruption in 2012. In fact, about a million people are said to have been thrown out from their positions in the last five years.
And though the actions might seem benign, many see a sinister plan behind the entire campaign. Political analyst Chen Daoyin sees this as a move to consolidate Xi’s power rather than a punishment for Sun’s crimes.
In an interview with SCMP, he says:
“The message is loud and clear: Local leaders should pledge absolute loyalty to the central leadership. Xi is now the unchallenged core of the Party, and no matter if he ever decides to pick a successor or not, the political future of provincial leaders should be decided by, and only by, the central leadership, they have no room to think for themselves.”
With Xi now literally the “emperor” of China until death or voluntary retirement, the centralization of power within the Party is expected to move ahead at a brisk pace.