Ousted Chinese official Sun Zhengcai is accused of plotting against Xi Jinping and Communist Party

Sun Zhengcai was publicly accused on Thursday (Oct 19) of trying to seize control of the Communist Party. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (NYTIMES) - A rising Chinese politician who was abruptly removed from office this summer was publicly accused on Thursday (Oct 19) of trying to seize control of the Communist Party.

The accusation against Sun Zhengcai was made by an economic official during a session of the Communist Party congress in Beijing and gives the most specific detail to date of the charges against Sun.

Sun had previously been accused of "grave violations of discipline", a vague phrase that can include corruption or disloyalty to the party.

But the accusation that he had plotted a political overthrow represents a personalisation of the allegations: Rather than attempting to undermine the party, he is accused of transgressions against China's leader Xi Jinping.

Defining their crimes as offences not just against the law and the Communist Party, but an attempt to oust Xi himself is a noteworthy shift, analysts say. And making such a statement during the party congress sends a clear message to officials.

"Anyone challenging Xi Jinping can now be seen as committing a political crime," said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia regional director for Amnesty International. "I think that is very different from what everybody understood before - that yes, if you were resisting, opposing or going through bureaucratic strategies to get around new directions, you could be taken down by a number of accusations, including corruption or a serious breach of discipline, but not accused of something that is far more serious, which is a political plot."

Xi opened the twice-a-decade party congress on Wednesday with a 205-minute speech that outlined his vision of a country resuming its position of world leadership while facing continuing threats to the primacy of the Communist Party at home.

Under Xi, the party has carried out an extensive crackdown on corruption that has seen more than 1.5 million officials investigated in the past five years, including 440 at the provincial level or above.

The purge has also targeted several top officials who had the potential to undermine Xi's authority. Along with Sun, Liu named Bo Xilai, a former party secretary of the south-western megacity of Chongqing; Zhou Yongkang, the former security czar; Ling Jihua, a top aide to former President Hu Jintao; and the former generals Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.

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