Bo Guagua: Son of a Fallen Princeling

As official Chinese media continue their efforts to garner support for the dismissal of Bo Xilai by focusing on his “serious discipline violations” and his wife’s alleged role in the death of a British businessman, the foreign press has started featuring , 24-year-old son of the fallen princeling, in their coverage of the unfolding drama. Young Bo is currently a student of public policy at Harvard, and the university’s student newspaper will start our introduction to Bo by explaining his connection to the late Neil Heywood. From the Harvard Crimson:

At the root of much of the publicity surrounding the younger Bo is his connections with the late , a British businessman who lived in China until his death last fall. Bo’s mother Gu Kailai, wife of was arrested for Heywood’s murder earlier this month.

Heywood is thought to have served as a mentor to the younger Bo by helping him gain admission to Harrow—a prestigious English secondary school—and Oxford University. Chinese authorities said that the family’s relationship with Heywood soured following “a conflict over economic interests,” according to a report in The Daily Mail.

While he was a student in England, Bo Guagua’s behavior came under scrutiny as reporters examined rumors of his father’s . Many questioned how the family could afford to underwrite the private education and glamorous social life of their son, who was well known for throwing lavish parties and driving a red Ferrari in Beijing.

The Telegraph further reports on Bo’s “playboy” lifestyle as a student in England, and on pressure that Chinese diplomats exerted on school administrators when Bo was facing disciplinary measures:

Dr Andrew Graham, the master of Balliol College, received a visit from three diplomats as tutors made Bo Guagua, 24, who was studying PPE, sit additional “penal” exams after failing to work.

Friends say the student got a reputation for throwing champagne and shisha parties in college rooms.

A well-placed source said one of the men who arrived to talk to the college master was the Chinese ambassador.

“He turned up with a couple of men in suits,” the source said. “They said it was very embarrassing because education was highly valued in China, and it was embarrassing to his father and grandfather.

“His tutors replied if that was the case they should get him to work harder.”

After graduating from Oxford in 2010 and relocating to the U.S., Bo began a graduate degree at Harvard, and is expected to graduate in May. At Harvard, Bo has remained serious about his studies, and has kept a relatively discreet profile, possibly encouraged by leaked party photos from his Oxford days. An article from Reuters reports on the expenses of Bo’s postgraduate career, and speculates about his life after graduation and in the fallout of the family scandal:

Harvard spokesman Doug Gavel would not comment on how Bo Guagua was financing his expensive graduate studies – just the latest in more than a decade of study abroad. Media reports suggest Bo Guagua’s education has been bankrolled by a Chinese billionaire businessman. His family has said he received scholarships to various institutions.

On its website, Harvard estimates that expenses for the upcoming academic year for international students at the Kennedy School would come to about $70,000, “based upon conservative estimates of living expenses.”

Bo’s lifestyle has seemed far removed from the austerity experienced by many graduate students.

A Harvard source said he believed Bo lived in “The Residences at Charles Square,” an upscale condominium building near the school, though this could not be confirmed. The building overlooks the Charles River and has views of downtown Boston. A three-bedroom apartment there recently fetched $1.8 million, while rents for two-bedroom apartments are around $3,700 a month.

On Thursday night, Bo was picked up from his luxury flat in a dark SUV driven by a law-enforcement officer. Another article in The Telegraph reports on the possible significance of the late night pick-up:

Speculation was mounting that the younger Mr Bo may have sought protection from American authorities. The FBI’s Boston office declined to say if the man was one of their agents. It is understood that he was not from the local or university police departments.

[…]The author of America’s asylum law said their son, who like his mother is said by Chinese officials to have fallen out with Mr Heywood over money, had a compelling case for refuge in the US.

“If you can establish there’s a well-founded fear you would be persecuted in China because you would be imputed with the subversive or corrupt political views of your father, you would be just as eligible for asylum,” said Bruce Einhorn, a retired judge and professor at Pepperdine University.

[…]However one of Mr Bo’s closest friends told The Daily Telegraph he would be determined to return to China to serve his country, which he has said he wants to keep on a “path of smooth transition”.

April 14, 2012 2:10 AM
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