Bo Xilai’s son defends lifestyle, says he’s concerned about scandal

April 24, 2012

In his first public statement since the arrest of his mother on suspicion of murder and the ouster of his father from the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, Harvard University student Bo Guagua said he is “deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family” and defended his own academic performance and lifestyle against allegations of debauchery and sloth.

The 24-year-old son of former Chongqing party boss and ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai mounted a spirited defense of his record in the statement sent to the Harvard Crimson, the student-run newspaper. Crimson reporter Justin Worland said he had communicated with the Chinese student via a Harvard e-mail address listed in the university directory as belonging to Bo Guagua.

Crimson President Ben Samuels said that reporters had spoken directly with Bo Guagua and confirmed the authenticity of his statement.

While expressing concern about his parents, both of whom are being held incommunicado in China, Bo said he has “no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation” but would address some rumors about himself.

He denied ever having driven a Ferrari sports car, or using his family name to make money.

But he did not shed any light on his whereabouts or status. He stopped attending classes at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government after his father was ousted as Chong­qing party boss last month. He then vanished from his apartment near Harvard Square in downtown Cambridge, Mass., stirring speculation that he had been taken into protective custody to avoid possible kidnapping by Chinese security agents. The State Department has denied that the disgraced Chinese official’s son had been taken away by American law-enforcement officers and has sought political asylum in the United States.

Chinese authorities announced April 10 that Bo’s father had been removed from the Central Committee and Politburo and that his mother, Gu Kailai, a lawyer, had been arrested in connection with the alleged murder of British business consultant Neil Heywood, who was found dead in a Chong­qing hotel room in November. They originally said Heywood died from alcohol poisoning. His body was cremated soon after his death.  

Bo Guagua has not been accused of any criminal activity, but a statement issued by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua linked him to Heywood, the dead Briton. Xinhua said a “re-investigation” of Heywood’s death had found that Gu Kailai, the mother, and Bo Guagua “were on good terms with Heywood. However, they had a conflict of economic interests, which had intensified.”

Like his often-flamboyant father, who was last seen in public during a March press conference during the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, Bo Guagua struck a defiant tone, dismissing talk of sports cars and denying that he “participated in any for-profit business or venture, in China or abroad.”

Addressing speculation that his education abroad has been funded at least in part by Chinese businessmen who wanted to curry favor with his previously highflying father, Bo said that funding came “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.”

He has been educated almost entirely outside China, first at Harrow School, an exclusive private academy in England, and later at Oxford Universty and then Harvard. Following reports in the British media that he did poorly at Oxford, Bo said he won a respectable “2:1 degree (second class, first honors)” overall and also “devoted time and energy to extra-curricular activities.”

His reputation has taken a battering in recent weeks following the appearance on the Internet of photographs that show him partying, often with Western women and possibly in an inebriated state. The pictures raised eyebrows in China, where the privilege of so-called “princelings” is a highly sensitive subject at a time when the gap between rich and poor is widening.

While avoiding many of the big questions about himself and his family, Bo Guagua said he understands that “at the present, the public interest in my life has not diminished. However, I wholeheartedly request that members of the press kindly refrain from intruding into the lives of my teachers, friends and classmates.”

higginsandrew@washpost.com

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