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China sentences former senior official to life term for graft

BEIJING (AFP) -- A Chinese court Monday sentenced a former top official to life in prison for corruption involving millions of dollars, the latest high-profile conviction in President Xi Jinping's crackdown on graft.

Su Rong, 66, was a vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a discussion body that is part of the Communist Party-controlled government structure.

He was found guilty of bribery, abuse of power and possessing "huge amounts" of assets whose origins he could not explain, said a statement on the verified social media site of the court in Jinan city, capital of the eastern province of Shandong.

Graft has become endemic in China and Xi launched a much-publicised drive against corruption after coming to power in 2012, vowing to target both high-level "tigers" and low-ranking "flies".

Su was "one of the graft 'tigers'", the official Xinhua news agency said in announcing his expulsion from the Communist Party last February.

But analysts say China has failed to implement institutional safeguards against corruption, such as an independent judiciary and free media, leaving anti-graft campaigns subject to political influence.

Su accepted 116 million yuan ($16.9 million) in bribes between 2002 and

2014 and possessed more than 80 million additional yuan of unknown provenance, the court statement said.

In addition to receiving a life sentence, he was also deprived of his political rights for life and gave up all his personal assets.

Su accepted the verdict and would not appeal, it said.

Previous reports in Chinese media have connected Su to corrupt land deals in Jiangxi province during his time as party secretary there.

Previously, he also served as Communist Party secretary of Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

He was a vice chairman of the CPPCC for less than two years. While the post carries political prestige, it is largely a ceremonial job tasked with advising China's rubber-stamp parliament.

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