A disgraced Chinese politician who has been accused of plotting against the Communist Party pleaded guilty to corruption charges on Thursday.
A former star politician admits to corruption
Sun Zhengcai, 54, the former party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, was once considered to be a leadership contender who could succeed President Xi Jinping.
But he was abruptly sacked and placed under investigation in July last year, three months before Xi was appointed the party chief for a second term.
During the trial at the Tianjin No.1 Intermediate People’s Court, prosecutors accused Sun of using his position to seek profits for others and himself, illegally accepting $27 million worth of assets from 2002 to 2017, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Sun did not contest the accusations, according to the court, which posted live updates on his trial to the Twitter-like platform Weibo.
In his closing statement, Sun said he “had only himself to blame and deserves punishments,” the court said in a Weibo post.
He also expressed sincere regrets over his wrongdoing, the court said.
The court adjourned after a half-day hearing and said it would hand down a verdict and sentence at an unspecified later date.
All Chinese courts are controlled by the Communist Party, making this kind of high-profile trial largely a formality.
Party media and incumbent officials attacked the formerly high-flying politician for leaking secrets, being lazy at work, trading power for sex and attempting to seize the reins of power.
Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has brought down a number of powerful officials in a relentless anti-corruption campaign.
But critics say the leader is also using the crackdown to remove his own political enemies and enforce loyalty.
Chongqing is a key industrial metropolis in China, with a population of 30 million and an economic growth rate of 9.3% last year.
The city became widely known to the world after its former leader Bo Xilai was jailed for life in 2013 in one of the country’s biggest political scandals.
The dramatic scandal came to light in 2012 after Bo’s subordinate Wang Lijun briefly took refuge in a US consulate. Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was later convicted of murdering a British businessman.
The downfalls of Bo and Sun have both caught global attention for offering rare glimpses into China’s high-level political infighting.
The dismissal of Sun in July was interpreted as one of the first signs that Xi intended to rule China beyond a second term.
After Sun was ousted, Chen Miner, a close associate of Xi, was appointed the leader of Chongqing.
Last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature lifted the limits on presidential terms, removing the obstacles for Xi to stay in power beyond 2023.