Deciphering Sun Zhengcai’s Charges

Sun Zhengcai, the former Chongqing chief and Politburo member, was found guilty of six charges and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Sept. 29. The implications of three of the charges are worth examining.  

Divulging secrets: The last high-ranking Chinese official to be punished for matters involving classified information was former General Office director Ling Jihua in 2015. But Ling was charged with acquiring CCP and state secrets, whereas Sun was guilty of divulging CCP and state secrets, a more severe crime.

Lazy and indolent: Sun was also charged with “severe bureaucratism” and being “lazy and indolent,” two charges rarely leveled against high-ranking officials.

The Xi administration has previously chastised Chinese officials for not working hard and engaging in “passive resistance” against Xi. If Xi were to make an example out of Sun Zhengcai, then the “lazy and indolent” charge could be used more liberally in the future.

Pace of purge: Among all the elite CCP officials purged under Xi, Sun has been the quickest to be expelled. For comparison, Sun’s Chongqing predecessor Bo Xilai was expelled from the CCP about five and a half months after he was placed under investigation, while Sun was expelled in a little over two months.

Life imprisonment: A recent state-backed exhibition marked Sun, Ling, Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, Guo Boxiong, and Xu Caihou as “hidden political threats.” Given that Bo, Ling, Zhou, Guo and Xu were sentenced to life in prison, expect Sun to face a similar fate.

Our take: Xi Jinping hastily expelling Sun with only weeks to go before the 19th Party Congress is a sign that his power over the CCP still isn’t secure.