Signage in Beijing welcomes delegates to the 20th Communist Party Congress ahead of its October 16 start date.
Hong Kong CNN  — 

China’s former deputy public security minister Sun Lijun has been sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges, state media reported Friday, as a purge of officials intensifies ahead of a twice-a-decade key Communist Party gathering.

Sun, 53, who was accused of leading a “political clique” in China’s security establishment, was sentenced by a court in north-eastern China to suspended death sentence with two years of reprieve, which will be commuted to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, according to the state owned Xinhua News Agency.

Sun was found guilty of accepting bribes amounting to RMB 646 million (approximately $90.44 million) in his various official capacities from 2001 to 2020, Xinhua reported, adding that he “manipulated stock prices and trading volumes” that prevented losses of RMB 145 million. He was also convicted over his illegal possession of two firearms.

The Central Commission of Discipline Inspection, China’s anti-graft watchdog, launched an investigation on Sun in April 2020, and expelled him from the Communist Party in September 2020. He was accused of corruption and “harboring hugely inflated political ambitions.”

In January, China’s Public Security Ministry convened a stern meeting to denounce the “pernicious influence” of Sun’s “political clique,” which the ministry said had “seriously damaged the unity of the Party” and severely undermined its political security.

Other members who have been identified as part of the “political clique” were also handed long prison sentences this week.

Fu Zhenghua, China’s former justice minister and deputy police chief, was sentenced for accepting bribes in the same court as Sun on Thursday. Fu’s dramatic downfall has made headlines in China, where he was once seen as a rising star and loyal ally of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

In 2013, Xi appointed Fu to head a graft probe into Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security tzar and retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in the Communist Party. Zhou was jailed for life in 2015 for corruption and abuse of power.

This week’s verdicts come just weeks before the 20th Party Congress in October, where Xi is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as China’s top leader.

Sun and Fu are among a number of high-profile officials prosecuted in the wake of a sweeping crackdown on graft and disloyalty in China’s domestic security agencies, which critics say has also been used to purge Xi’s political rivals.

Beginning in 2020, officials in China’s domestic security apparatus were urged to “turn the blade inwards and scrape the poison off the bone,” and to expose “two-faced people” who are disloyal and dishonest to the party.

In an interview last year, Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing, told CNN the series of purges betray the fragility of trust from the Chinese leadership in the country’s domestic security agencies.

“It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance,” he said. ​​​