Xi Jinping sends message with sentencing of top security official

Sun Lijun, who was Vice Minister of Public Security, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Published - September 23, 2022 10:19 pm IST - Beijing

Sun Lijun, former vice minister of public security, attends a court sentencing in Changchun in northeastern China’s Jilin province on September 23, 2022.

Sun Lijun, former vice minister of public security, attends a court sentencing in Changchun in northeastern China’s Jilin province on September 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

A senior former Chinese security official accused of challenging President Xi Jinping’s authority was on Friday given a life sentence, weeks ahead of a key Communist Party leadership congress.

Sun Lijun, who was Vice Minister of Public Security, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. The court said the sentence can be commuted to life in prison but without any reduction or parole.

Mr. Sun was accused of massive corruption of close to $100 million in bribes over two decades, as well as the more serious charge of “endangering political security”, a reference to challenging Mr. Xi.

His sentencing followed that of other senior law and security officials who were accused of being part of a “clique” that had challenged Mr. Xi’s rule as the “core” of the party.

On Thursday, the former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua was sentenced to life in prison.

Only in early 2020, Mr. Sun was sent by Mr. Xi to oversee the initial response to the pandemic in Wuhan. He was later accused of “deserting his post on the frontline of fighting the COVID-19 epidemic” and “possessing confidential materials without authorisation”.

At the time of his expulsion from the party last year, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection accused him of “never staying true to the Party’s ideals and faith” and “displaying extremely inflated political ambition and very poor political integrity”.

Political struggles

His actual actions haven’t been spelled out, but the party statement suggested he had challenged Mr. Xi’s authority, a rare public acknowledgement of internal political struggles. It said Mr. Sun had “issued groundless criticisms of the Party’s policies and spread political rumours”.

He was accused of “unscrupulously cultivating personal followers and interest groups to achieve personal political gains” and “seriously undermining the unity of the Party and endangering political security”.

Mr. Sun may not be the last senior party official to be purged as Mr. Xi, who will begin an unprecedented third term following the October 16 congress, continues to tighten his grip.

The court ruling said he was “granted a lenient sentence, considering that he had provided investigators with clues to other major cases”.

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