Former China rising political star pleads guilty to taking $27 million in bribes

Former Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai stands trial Thursday in Tianjin, China.

(CNN)A former rising political star, once rumored as a successor to Chinese President Xi Jinping, pleaded guilty Thursday to taking tens of millions of yuan in bribes over a 15-year period, according to Chinese state media People's Daily.

Facing court in northern China, former Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai admitted to accepting more than 170 million yuan ($27 million) between 2002 and 2017, in both property and cash, when he held various posts across China.
A former member of China's powerful Politburo, Sun was considered a future leader in China at the time of his downfall.
    When he was first came under investigation by the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in July, the move was seen as an example of Xi consolidating power.
    Sun during the National People's Congress in Beijing in March 2017.
    Experts told CNN at the time of Sun's arrest there had been suggestions he would be elevated into China's seven-member Politburo Standing Committee at November's 19th Party Congress.
    According to a statement issued Thursday by the First Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin Municipality, Sun said he deserved his punishment and had "no objections to the charges."
    A verdict will be announced at a later date, the statement said.
    Sun is the second Chongqing party secretary to be removed as part of a corruption investigation in the past decade. Chongqing, one of China's largest cities, is situated deep in the country's economic heartland and far from the political center of Beijing.
    Sun was put in charge of Chongqing in 2012 after former party Secretary Bo Xilai was jailed for life for corruption in a scandal involving the murder of a British businessman.
    Bo also had been seen as a potential challenger to Xi.
    Both Sun and Bo have been caught up in the Chinese President's signature anti-corruption campaign, which he began shortly after taking office in 2012 with the promise it would target both powerful and lowly officials -- or "tigers and flies."
    The campaign has been widely popular among the Chinese population, but observers have criticized it as a way for Xi to consolidate power.
    Xi is the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong after China's parliament removed term limits on the presidency, allowing him to rule effectively for life.
    Sun was replaced as Chongqing party secretary by Xi protege Chen Min'er, who subsequently joined the Politburo at the 19th Party Congress.