Chinese Official at Center of Steve Wynn Lobbying Scandal Sentenced to Death

Posted on: September 23, 2022, 04:30h. 

Last updated on: September 23, 2022, 05:16h.

A Chinese government official who allegedly recruited Steve Wynn to lobby the White House for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been sentenced to death in the northeastern city of Changchun.

Sun Lijun
Sun Lijun in the dock at the the Intermediate People’s Court of Changchun Friday. He was convicted and sentenced to death for corruption and manipulating the stock market. (SCMP)

Former deputy minister for public security Sun Lijun, 53, was convicted of manipulating the stock market, accepting 646 million yuan ($91 million) in bribes, selling official jobs, and abandoning his post during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The death sentence comes with a two-year reprieve, which means it could be commuted to life imprisonment if Sun is deemed to have “reformed” after two years’ incarceration.

Sun is one of hundreds of officials who have been caught up in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “anti-corruption campaign” since he came to power in 2012. China-watchers say he uses the crackdown as a pretext to quash political rivals, although graft is known to be rife in Chinese politics.

Sun was accused of being the leader of a “political clique” that was “disloyal” to Xi.

The Wynn Connection

Unrelated to his conviction, Sun is alleged to have leaned on Wynn to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of the Chinese government, per a DOJ lawsuit.

In 2017, Wynn was finance chair of the Republican National Committee when he was approached by Sun and by then-RNC deputy finance chairman Elliot Broidy. They wanted him to ask President Trump to deport a Chinese dissident back to the PRC.

The DOJ claims Wynn was willing to talk to Trump about the dissident, Guo Wengui, because he believed it would help safeguard Wynn Resorts casino operations in Macau. This was at a time of heightened political tensions between the US and China, which some analysts believed could impact Macau’s US operators.

The DOJ sued Wynn in May. It wants a DC federal court to order the casino tycoon to register as a foreign agent.

“Wynn conveyed the request directly to the then-president over dinner and by phone, and he had multiple discussions with the then-president and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting with Sun and other PRC government officials,” reads the DOJ lawsuit.

Wynn denies the allegations and has asked the judge to dismiss the case.

Who is Guo Wengui?

The dissident, Guo, a billionaire businessman, sought political asylum in the US after arriving from the PRC in 2014. Chinese authorities have charged him in absentia with bribery, sexual assault, and other crimes.

Guo claims these were cooked up in retaliation because he exposed Chinese politicians of having corrupt ties to business leaders in the PRC.

Ironically, Sun, who oversaw the hardline response to widespread pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, has met the fate that would likely have awaited Guo had the conspiracy to extradite him been fruitful.