Bo Guagua, the son of ousted Chinese Politburo member Bo Xilai, said his education was funded by scholarships and his mother’s savings and denied ever driving a Ferrari as he sought to dispel speculation of an extravagant lifestyle supported by ill-gotten wealth.
In his first public comments since his father was removed and his mother arrested on suspicion of murder, the 24-year-old Harvard Kennedy School student defended his academic record and said he was “deeply concerned” by the events surrounding his family, which is at the center of China’s biggest political upheaval in more than two decades.
“Recently, there has been increasing attention from the press on my private life,” Bo said in a statement in the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper. “As a result of these speculations, I feel responsible to the public to provide an account of the facts.”
Bo Xilai’s ouster and reports that his wife had moved money abroad have focused attention on how his son’s education was funded. Along with Harvard, Bo Guagua has attended the exclusive Harrow School and Oxford University in the U.K. While Bo Xilai’s salary as Chongqing Communist Party Secretary was about 10,000 yuan ($1,586) a month, his relatives have accumulated wealth of at least $136 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on the extended family’s business interests.
“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. He didn’t say where the scholarships came from.
Harvard said it won’t comment on how many Chinese students receive financial aid.
Bo said he never lent his name to “or participated in any for-profit business or venture, in China or abroad.” He said he has been involved in developing a not-for-profit social networking website in China.
Bo Xilai, 62, who was suspended as Chongqing Party chief last month, has been accused of “serious violations of discipline,” the Xinhua News Agency said April 10. His wife, Gu Kailai, and an aide were put in custody for suspicion of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu Kailai is Bo Guagua’s mother.
That was after Bo Xilai’s former police chief, Wang Lijun, had spent a night in February at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, an event confirmed by both the U.S. and Chinese governments. Xinhua reported that Wang disclosed the murder allegations.
In the statement, Bo Guagua said he was “deeply concerned about the events” surrounding his family, though he had no comment about the investigation of them.
The New York Times reported on April 18 that Bo Guagua was suspended for a year at Oxford after struggling with his coursework. The report said he liked European sports cars and enjoyed throwing parties.
“It is impossible to address all of the rumours and allegations about myself, but I will state the facts regarding some of the most pertinent claims,” Bo said.
He defended his academic record and social life while at Oxford University, saying he debated at the Oxford Union and was president of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Society.
“Like many other university students, I also devoted time and energy to extra-curricular activities,” he said. “These extra-curricular activities enabled me to broaden my perspective, serve the student community, and experience all that Oxford has to offer.”
Bo said he had never driven a Ferrari and never visited the U.S. ambassador’s residence in China, contradicting a report in the Wall Street Journal in November. Speaking March 9 in Beijing, Bo Xilai denied as “completely rubbish” reports that his son drives a red Ferrari, and said his son attended Harvard and Oxford on scholarships.
Bo Guagua lives in a two-bedroom luxury apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while studying at Harvard. Units of that size start at $3,000 a month, according to a concierge at the building.
Bloomberg News reported April 14 that Gu Kailai’s sisters controlled an international web of businesses worth at least $126 million. On April 23, Bloomberg reported that family members of Bo Xilai have held positions at Citigroup Inc. (C) and alternative-energy company China Everbright International Ltd. (257)
According to its website, the Kennedy School estimates that the minimum cost, including tuition and living expenses, is $70,802 for one year of studies.
Harvard College has financial aid programs that include free tuition for families with annual income of less than $60,000. According to the Kennedy School website, funding for the graduate school itself “is limited” and students are encouraged to seek outside aid.
China has 582 students at Harvard, more than any other foreign country, and more than half of them, 288, are in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, according to the university website. Harvard’s Kennedy School, where Bo Guagua is enrolled, has 29 Chinese students.
The Journal reported April 16 that Bo Guagua had left his Cambridge apartment escorted by private security guards. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters last week that Bo was still at school at Harvard and wasn’t in custody.
Bo’s statement was posted on the Harvard Crimson website. Julie Zauzmer, the Crimson’s managing editor, said the paper’s reporters spoke with Bo Guagua on the phone and verified that he sent the e-mail statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Noah Rayman in Cambridge, Massachusetts