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China's Communist Party expels top member ahead of congress
By Laurent THOMET
Beijing (AFP) Sept 29, 2017

China's Communist Party Friday expelled from its ranks a former contender for a top leadership post for "serious discipline violations" before a major congress due to consolidate President Xi Jinping's power.

Politburo member Sun Zhengcai was also dismissed from public office after the Political Bureau of the party's central committee approved an investigative report, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In a statement issued after Friday's meeting, the party listed his numerous misdeeds, accusing Sun of abusing his position, receiving money and gifts in return for seeking benefits for others and trading power for sex, Xinhua said.

He was also accused of nepotism, sloth and leaking confidential party information and betraying party principles.

Sun had also been under investigation by the Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog.

He had already been sacked as party chief in the major southwest city of Chongqing in July, a move that was seen as having implications for the party's twice-a-decade congress, which starts October 18.

Sun was replaced in the city by Chen Miner, a former Xi aide whose profile was elevated by the move.

"This is a warning that Xi sends to his enemies that, 'if you do not profess allegiance to me, you may suffer the same fate as Sun Zhengcai'," Willy Lam, politics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

"Sun Zhengcai's major problem was not corruption or womanising but failure to profess full loyalty to Xi Jinping," Lam said, noting that the investigation was concluded unusually fast compared to similar cases.

At the congress, Xi is expected to secure a second five-year term as party chief and cement his position as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation.

At 53, Sun was the youngest member of the 25-member Politburo.

He had once been tipped for promotion to the Politburo's seven-member standing committee, the elite group of politicians who run the world's second largest economy.

Sun was even seen in some quarters as Xi's potential successor.

- Sun's downfall, Chen's rise -

Sun was the first serving member of the Politburo to be placed under investigation since Bo Xilai, also a former Chongqing party chief who was jailed for life in 2013 in the wake of Xi's anti-corruption campaign.

As the country's fourth largest city and an industrial metropolis in the southwest of the country, Chongqing is a major post for ambitious politicians.

Bo was rumoured to be part of a network plotting to stop Xi from assuming control of the party in 2012, and Sun was tasked with erasing Bo's influence on the city.

But in February party discipline inspectors publicly rebuked Sun for failing to get the job done, leaving his future in question.

His successor, Chen, first worked with Xi in 2002, when the latter became party chief of the eastern province of Zhejiang.

His career took off after Xi became the party's general secretary at the last congress in 2012.

Chen became governor of the southwestern province of Guizhou in 2013, adding the title of provincial party secretary in 2015.

Xinhua said 2,287 delegates were elected to attend the 19th Communist Party congress on October 18.

Hundreds mark third anniversary of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 28, 2017
Hundreds gathered outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong Thursday to mark the third anniversary of mass pro-democracy rallies known as the Umbrella Movement, as fears grow over Beijing's tightening grip on the city. Tens of thousands blocked major thoroughfares in the city for 79 days starting September 28, 2014 to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, in a movement ... read more

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