One-Time Potential Rival to China's Xi Draws Life Sentence

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China's Sun Zhengcai, an ex-political star and one of the youngest Politburo members - seen as a potential contender for a top government position, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption.

The former Communist Party boss had admitted in April to an intermediate court in the city of Tianjin that he had taken bribes of more than 170 million yuan ($27 million).

Announcing the verdict, the court also deprived him of his political rights for life and all his personal property was confiscated.

State broadcaster CCTV showed Sun in court accepting the sentence and stating that he would not appeal.

Many China politics experts and some party insiders attribute Mr. Sun's downfall to his reputation as a possible next-generation leader whose ties were to senior party figures other than Mr. Xi.

Observers say the Chinese leadership under Xi used the trial to demonstrate its strict stance against corruption and to urge party members to remain loyal to the president.

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Between 2012 and 2017, 35 full and alternate members of the Communist Party's powerful Central Committee have been disciplined, which is as many as in the period between the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and 2012.

Since the last year's Congress, several officials at or above deputy ministerial level and senior military officials have been investigated or punished, including former Chinese military chief of staff Fang Fenghui and Lu Wei, former deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, as well as vice governors of Shaanxi, Shandong and Jiangxi provinces.

The court heard that between 2002 and a year ago, Sun had taken advantage of his position to seek profits for others and illegally accepted money, according to previous court statements.

Sun was the first serving member of the 25-member politburo to be placed under investigation since Bo Xilai (薄熙來), another former leader of Chongqing, who was jailed for life in 2013.

Previously big-name corrupt officials would have been retired or eased out of office, but Mr Xi has taken a more aggressive approach.

Critics have compared it to a political purge.