September 29, 2017 / 10:48 AM / a year ago

China to prosecute 'degenerate' former party boss of Chongqing

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will prosecute the “degenerate” former top official of one of China’s most important cities, the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing, for leaking secrets, bribery and abuse of power, state media said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO - Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai attends the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/ File Photo

Sun Zhengcai, a senior official once considered a contender for top leadership, had been Communist Party chief of the city until an abrupt announcement in July that he had been replaced by a rising political star close to President Xi Jinping.

He was put under investigation later in July.

Chongqing is perhaps best known outside China for its association with its disgraced former party boss, Bo Xilai, who was once himself a contender for top leadership before being jailed for life in 2013 in a dramatic corruption scandal.

In a brief report, the official Xinhua news agency said a party investigation found that Sun had “abandoned the party’s aims” and “seriously trampled upon the party’s political discipline”.

He leaked party secrets, abused his power to seek advantage for others, took expensive gifts and exchanged power for sex, Xinhua said.

Sun “seriously contravened discipline in life, became corrupt and degenerate”, it added. He was also “lazy and inactive”.

Sun betrayed the trust put in him by the party and the people, caused huge losses for Chinese companies and had a “very malign impact upon society”, Xinhua said.

He has been expelled from the party and his case will be handed over to legal authorities, it added, meaning he will be prosecuted.

Xinhua did not give any further details of the crimes he is suspected of.

It was not possible to reach Sun directly for comment and unclear if he has been allowed to retain a lawyer.

Chinese courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge the accusations levelled against him, meaning he will almost certainly be found guilty when his case comes to trial, which could still be several months away.

Sun had been seen as a potential candidate for elevation at next month’s key party Congress and as a possible future premier.

But sources with ties to the leadership and foreign diplomats say Sun had been out of favour after the party’s corruption watchdog in February criticised Chongqing authorities for not doing enough to root out Bo’s influence.

At that meeting, Sun said he accepted the watchdog’s assessment “without question”, according to a party statement at the time.

Sun was unceremoniously replaced in Chongqing by Chen Miner, who days after taking up the post demanded officials banish the “evil legacy” of Bo.

Chen is a rising political star close to Xi, and is seen as a potential new member of the party’s elite Standing Committee when it is unveiled after a reshuffle at the Congress.

Since assuming power in late 2012, Xi has pursued a relentless campaign against corruption, warning that the problem could threaten the party’s ability to retain power, though some analysts say he is also taking down political rivals.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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