BEIJING (Reuters) - China began the trial of former senior official Sun Zhengcai on bribery charges on Thursday, a Chinese court said, the latest development in a corruption investigation into a man once considered a contender for top leadership.

Sun, 54, was abruptly removed from his post as the ruling Communist Party's chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing - one of China's most important cities - in July, and replaced by Chen Miner, who is close to President Xi Jinping.

Chinese prosecutors in February charged Sun with accepting "huge sums" in bribes during various posts going back 15 years in Chongqing, Beijing, Jilin province, and as minister of agriculture.

"Defendant Sun Zhengcai did not object to any of the facts of the accusations and the charges," the first intermediate court in the northeastern city of Tianjin said in one of a series of posts on its official microblog.

Sun is certain to be found guilty as the courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge the accusations against him.

It has not been possible to reach Sun or a representative for comment since he was put under investigation last year.

Xi has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012 and has vowed to target both "tigers" and "flies", a reference to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

Thousands of officials have been jailed and punished in a campaign that has also brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)

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