Bo Guagua gives a speech after being honored as one of Top 10 Outstanding Young Chinese in the UK in 2009, when he was studying in Balliol College, Oxford. Photo: CFP
After Bo Xilai
, a disgraced Communist Party of China official, was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of corruption, bribe-taking and abuse of power in September 2013, the public fascination with Bo's fall from power has begun to wane.
But a Chinese magazine, Sanlian Lifeweek, on Monday published a cover story on Bo's youngest son, Bo Guagua, who is now a first-year student at Columbia Law School in the US. Bo Guagua has been the focus of extensive public attention, particularly in regard to his socialite lifestyle and reportedly luxurious habits.
Prior to Bo Xilai's sentence, his wife Bogu Kailai was sentenced to death with two years reprieve, in August 2012 on charges of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, who once helped take care of Guagua and was believed to have cooperated with Bogu.
Details revealed in the 31-page report lifted the secrecy that had surrounded Guagua's life, extensively describing his early years when he lived with his grandparents in Beijing, and the time spent at the Harrow School in London, as well as his college and postgraduate life in Oxford and Harvard. People who had known him at various points in his life emerged as key witnesses or even participants in the crimes his parents committed.Bribes for her son
"Taking Guagua to Britain for middle school was all arranged by her. She just informed me about it, and it was a decision made in a fit of pique as I had cheated on her. She was angry about it and took Guagua away," Bo Xilai said in court.
Bogu's decision to take Guagua to Britain prompted her to take bribes from Xu Ming, an entrepreneur in Dalian, Liaoning Province, where Bo Xilai held office from the late 1980s to early 2000s. It also started a chain of events that led to her committing homicide, in the belief she was removing threats to Guagua.
Bogu was once presented as a successful professional woman, marked by her deeds as a lawyer helping clients win a lawsuit in the US in 1997. This was reportedly an attempt to distract herself from the harm that her husband's cheating had caused, according to a source identified as "Mr.C" by the report, who was believed to have been close to Bogu. She shut down her office in 1999 after rumors swirled that she had taken advantage of her husband's position for profit. The couple hoped to avoid damage to Bo's image and career.
Guagua spent almost his entire primary school period in Beijing with his grandparents. He had spent little time with his parents, who had been living in Dalian.
In 2001, Bogu bought a villa in Nice, southern France, worth over 16.25 million yuan with funds provided by Xu, to ensure that Guagua had a stable income. This later became key evidence in claims that Bo Xilai took bribes. Furthermore, her testimony revealed that the expenses Guagua and herself spent on travelling were all covered by Xu after 2003.
"As the wife of a senior official, she should maintain certain boundaries with entrepreneurs. But she showed no scruples when using Xu's money and the boundary disappeared," said the story.Focus of gossip
Public gossip regarding Guagua also focused on how his family afforded the expensive tuition of 30,000 pounds a year at Harrow and Oxford, and whether he performed well at school since he had been reportedly been immersed in luxury parties.
There are no answers in regard to where Guagua's tuition came from. Guagua claimed he had received a full scholarship since 16, but Harrow denied they offer full scholarships to students, and Guagua would not have been eligible for the partial scholarships offered. The report mentioned that it was possible that some foundations or charities may offer scholarships to candidates under certain conditions, but Guagua never responded to the question.
He spent most of 2009 in China, taking interviews and giving a high-profile speech at Peking University. An article published on a local Web portal the same year in Chongqing, Southwest China, where his father had served as the Party chief, even related Guagua's academic experience to the core values of socialism and said he could present China's voice in the international community.
Despite the gossip, Guagua received compliments from some Harrow teachers, who said that he was polite and had worked hard and not received any demerit points, unlike other students.
But on the other side of the equation, rumors arose saying that Guagua was expelled from Oxford because he failed exams. But he said he was taking advantage of a gap year to do his dissertation.
In an e-mail from Andrew Graham, former master of Balliol College at Oxford to the magazine, Graham said that Guagua was not expelled, but he was required to be out of residence for one year following the normal processes in which the academic progress of all students is monitored.
"It became clear that, while he was a clever young man, he did not settle well into his academic work and this is what led to our eventual decision that he should be away for a year. On his return, he achieved a very creditable result in the final exams," said Graham.
While Guagua was still a student, his half-brother, Li Wangzhi who is the son of Bo Xilai and his ex-wife and is 10 years older than Guagua, opened a company after Li obtained a master degree from Columbia University.
Bogu believed Bo's family showed favoritism to the older son, according to a confidential source, who noted that Bogu's personality changed a lot after she gave up her lawyer's job.
Bogu even suspected that Li had attempted to poison her and in 2007 made enquiries about it to Wang Lijun, then the head of public security bureau in Tieling, Liaoning Province.
Bo Xilai later claimed in the court that he was furious at Li, because of claims by Wang and Bogu that Li had poisoned Bogu. He then distanced himself from Li, but later regretted this as it turned out Li had been wronged.
The court verdict claimed that Bogu had mental disorders. The disorder finally led her to more aggressive actions. After Heywood made threats through e-mail to Guagua several times, asking for compensation regarding an economic dispute with Bogu, she orchestrated the murder of Heywood in Chongqing in November, 2011, which was revealed by Wang when he asked for political asylum in the US Consulate General in Chengdu, causing a dramatic stir in Chinese politics.
Guagua was once asked that if his parents fell into the sea, which one would he save? He answered that he would jump into the water and stay with both his father and mother. But now, he is alone, studying on the other side of the ocean.