8 May 2018

Sun Zhengcai was a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party and was considered a potential successor to President Xi Jinping. He was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for bribery. He is alleged to have taken more than US$26.7 million in bribes directly or through designated third parties, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Chinese news outlet Caixin reported that Sun’s “designated parties” included two businesswomen.

Sun, 54, pleaded guilty at his trial on April 12 and would not appeal against the sentence, state media reported.

When former head of Chongqing, Bo Xilai was jailed for corruption, Sun took over the leadership of Chongqing in 2012. It will be surprising if Sun engaged in corrupt activities after seeing what happened to his predecessor. Therefore, we have to assume that his corrupt activities were prior to his appointment as the head of Chongqing and that the party was not aware of his corruption at the time of his appointment.

Several Chinese businesswomen linked to the investigation into Sun Zhengcai have been detained. Duan Weihong,  49, from Tianjin  was in custody. Liu Fengzhou, 55, a businesswoman and an art collector from Beijing, was detained in May, and Huang Suzhi, from Jiangsu, had been held since April, according Caixin. The New York Times reported Duan, also known as Whitney Duan was detained in connection with Sun’s investigations. Her business interests  ranged from hotel and asset management to property development and equity investment. Duan and her former husband had a development project in Shunyi district when Sun was the chief of the district. Caixin magazine reported that former civil servant Liu started her business in Shunyi and expanded it in roughly parallel with Sun’s later postings in Beijing, Jilin and Chongqing.

His critics say that President Xi, used corruption crackdown to eliminate some of his rivals and to consolidate his power in the party. President Xi might have felt threatened by the rise of Sun in the party before the crackdown.

Sun was replaced by Xi protégé Chen Min’er, a rising political star who was elected to the 25-member Politburo last year.