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China probes former rising star in party for violations
[HONG KONG] China's official Xinhua News Agency confirmed on Monday that Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party chief of Chongqing city, is under investigation for serious disciplinary violations.
The brief announcement followed news reports a little over a week ago that Mr Sun, 53, was being probed.
As the youngest member of the party's 25-member Politburo, Mr Sun was considered a rising star ahead of a leadership shuffle later this year. His age and rank had positioned him a candidate for the Politburo's smaller Standing Committee, China's top-decision making body, which could have set him up for a top leadership post after 2022.
Of the Standing Committee's seven current members, only President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang are expected to stay on based on recent retirement conventions, with as many as five new members added at the 19th party congress set for the final quarter of this year.
Mr Sun's probe underscores Mr Xi's commanding position ahead of that conclave, which will set the tone for his second five-year term as president, analysts have said.
The first sign of Mr Sun's downfall came earlier this month when state media reported that Chen Miner, a provincial party chief who is an associate of Mr Xi, had replaced him as the most-senior leader in the western municipality of Chongqing. Reports soon followed that Mr Sun had been placed under investigation.
Prior to being named Chongqing's party chief in 2012, Mr Sun had served as China's agriculture minister and also the party secretary of Jilin province.
The ousting of another former Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai, jolted the last party shuffle in 2012. Mr Bo, who was touted at the time as a potential future leader, is now serving a life sentence in prison for graft and abuse of power.