By Bo Gu
BEIJING – Bo Guagua, son of the now disgraced former Chinese Communist leader Bo Xilai, has come into the spotlight in the wake of the political scandal rocking his family.
On Tuesday he issued a statement to the website of Harvard’s newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, denying allegations that his expensive tuitions at exclusive schools were provided by Xu Ming, one of the wealthiest businessman in China who has since disappeared.
"My tuition and living expenses at Harrow School, University of Oxford and Harvard University were funded exclusively by two sources – scholarships earned independently, and my mother’s generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer," Bo said in the statement.
It’s not a rare thing in China for children of high ranking officials (called “princelings” here) to benefit from their powerful fathers by acquiring internal business information and monopolies in certain important sectors. Most of them have degrees from schools in Western countries and engage in highly profitable industries. But very few of them are as high profile as Bo Guagua, something he might be regretting in the past few weeks, when worldwide press tried everything possible to approach anyone who knows what’s happening to him and his family amongst China’s biggest political scandal in decades.
In the statement, Bo Guagua also disputed allegations that he had lived a luxury life while failing academically from Oxford to Harvard.
"My examination records have been solid throughout my schooling years. In the British public examination of GCSEs, which I completed at the age of 16, I achieved 11 ‘A Stars,’ …I also earned straight A’s for both AS level and A-level Examinations at the ages of 17 and 18, respectively," he said.
A son with star power
Bo Guagua has always been a favorite son of the Chinese media and many young people in China, even long before the fall of his family.
People loved calling his first name, Guagua (which means "melon-melon" in Chinese) in a half-joking and half-despising way. People talked about him as if he was a Hollywood star, but also with anger and jealousy.
His father, Bo Xilai, was the handsome boss of China’s biggest municipal city, hero of cracking down gangs and a hot contender to be part of the next Politburo standing committee, the country’s top power echelon.
His mother, Gu Kailai, daughter of one of the country’s founding generals, a charming and successful lawyer, published a book about her winning a case representing a Chinese company in the U.S., which was later made into a TV series called "Winning a lawsuit in the U.S.” It featured some of the most renowned actors in China.
Born in 1987, Bo Guagua is polite, good looking, and somewhat mysterious. He attended schools most Chinese boys at his age would only dream of: Harrow, one of Britain’s most prestigious all-boys boarding schools, Oxford, and Harvard. He was interviewed by Lu Yu from Phoenix TV, in one of the most popular talk show programs in China. He gave a speech at Peking University, the country’s most prestigious university. He won a "Big Ben Award" by British Chinese Youth Federation at the age of 22. He dated Chen Xiaodan, the glamorous granddaughter of China’s former vice premier.
Stories of him driving a red Ferrari to pick up former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman’s daughter for a date spread like wildfire online. His pictures of partying at Oxford and Harvard were re-posted tens of thousands of times, one shows a red-faced smiling Guagua with his arms around two girls.
In response to the party pictures that were criticized as evidence of his lavish lifestyle abroad, he said in his statement: "During my time at Oxford, it is true that I participated in ‘Bops,’ a type of common Oxford social event, many of which are themed. These events are a regular feature of social life at Oxford and most students take part in these college-wide activities."
He said the idea that he was cruising around in a red Ferrari was absurd and a false accusation; his father also said the story was false in his last public appearance. "I have never driven a Ferrari. I have also not been to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since 1998 (when I obtained a previous U.S. Visa), nor have I ever been to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in China."
But of all the things he said in his statement, Bo Guagua never mentioned Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was murdered last November in Chongqing. Heywood was said to have been a close family friend who helped him get into Harrow. Bo’s mother is currently being investigated as a prime suspect in his murder.