China has sentenced a senior Communist Party official to death with reprieve for allegedly taking over $100 million in bribes, state media reported Friday.
Zhao Zhengyong, the former Party secretary of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, was found guilty of taking more than 717 million yuan ($102.4 million) in bribes between 2003 and 2018.
After initially facing the death penalty, Zhao will likely avoid execution after pleading guilty to his crimes. The First Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin ruled that he will instead face life imprisonment, the confiscation of all his personal property, and the removal of all his political rights. He has agreed to accept the court’s judgment without appeal.
According to the state propaganda outlet Global Times, Zhao used his position of power to help “certain groups and individuals profit in matters such as project contracting, enterprise operation, job promotion, and job transfer.”
The paper added that among Zhao’s illicit earnings including 100 million yuan-worth in property and stocks. Meanwhile, 290 million yuan of the bribes have not yet been received by Zhao, meaning they classify as attempted crimes.
A life sentence is typical of dictator Xi Jinping’s aggressive crackdown on alleged corruption, which has targeted both genuine criminals as well as his political opponents. Unlike the United States, the death penalty or life imprisonment is readily used in China for crimes such as corruption and drug trafficking.
Capital punishment is usually carried out via lethal injection or gunshot. In 2020, China was the top executioner around the world, although official figures remain a state secret.
The far-reaching campaign began in 2012, following the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress, where Xi vowed to remove both “tigers and flies,” meaning both high and low-level officials alike.
As of 2020, the crackdown has implicated more than 120 high-ranking party officials, including around a dozen high-ranking military officers, several senior executives of state-owned companies, and five national leaders. Hundreds of thousands of people have been charged with corruption from across the country as a whole.