BEIJING • A former Chinese Communist Party official who was once tipped as a potential successor to President Xi Jinping was sentenced to life in prison for bribery yesterday, the latest senior cadre to fall in Mr Xi's sweeping anti-corruption drive.
Sun Zhengcai, a former politburo member and party chief of the south-western mega city of Chongqing, was found guilty of taking more than 170 million yuan ($35.7 million) in bribes, the First Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin said on its website.
Sun, 54, had once been tipped for promotion to the politburo's elite seven-member standing committee, which rules the country and is presided over by Mr Xi. As the youngest politburo member, Sun was even seen in some quarters as a potential successor to Mr Xi.
The court said the defendant had been given a lenient sentence in the light of his willingness to cooperate with the investigation.
In addition to his prison term, Sun's "stolen property has already all been confiscated", the statement said. He was also deprived of his political rights for life.
A photo posted on the court's website showed the former leader in the dock, head deeply bowed as two police officers looked on.
Sun expressed "sincere repentance", according to the court. He said he accepted the sentence and would not appeal. He also said he would earnestly reform himself.
The court heard that between 2002 and last year, Sun had taken advantage of his position to seek profits for others and illegally accepted money, according to previous court statements.
He and his alleged associates were charged with accepting the bribes in return for providing help to unspecified organisations and individuals with engineering contracts, business operations and other matters.
The court said that Sun, as a senior official, should have set an example in observing the law. However, his actions had "gravely damaged the normal work order of national organisations and harmed the integrity of conduct by national employees".
He pleaded guilty to the charges during a one-day trial last month.
Sun was the first serving member of the 25-person politburo to be investigated since Bo Xilai, another former Chongqing leader who was jailed for life in 2013.
Mr Xi has presided over a popular anti-graft drive since coming to power in 2012 that has punished more than one million officials.
The National People's Congress recently expanded the campaign by creating a national supervision commission that will look beyond party officials and scrutinise millions of public servants at all levels of government.
As the country's fourth-largest city and an industrial metropolis in its south-west, Chongqing is a major post for ambitious politicians.
When Sun became Chongqing's chief in 2012, he was tasked with erasing Bo's influence on the city.
But, last year, the party's discipline inspectors publicly rebuked Sun for failing to get the job done.
His downfall came months later.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA