Fallen Chinese political star stands trial for bribery

Sun Zhengcai
The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Former Chinese political high-flyer Sun Zhengcai stood trial for bribery in eastern China on Thursday, making him one of the highest-level officials to be prosecuted in President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

The No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Tianjin said on its official page on the social media site Weibo.com that Sun’s trial opened Thursday.

Until his downfall, Sun had been the Communist Party leader of the western megacity of Chongqing and a member of the party’s elite 25-member Politburo.

Prosecutors have accused Sun of using his position to seek profits for others and illegally accepting enormous amounts of money and property, but leaders have made it clear his alleged offenses were largely political in nature.

The chairman of China’s securities regulator said at a major party meeting last year that Sun and other senior figures prosecuted in the crackdown were “conspiring openly to usurp party leadership.”

Sun was expelled from the party and dismissed from public office in September because he was suspected of “serious discipline violations,” a phrase that usually refers to bribery and other graft.

Sun, 53, had been seen as a candidate for promotion to the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the select group of leaders who constitute the apex of political power in China.

He was removed suddenly from his Chongqing post and replaced by Xi protege Chen Min’er, who was subsequently promoted to the Politburo.

Sun had been identified most closely with the China Youth League faction associated with Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, which Xi had effectively sidelined in the succession process.