Li Wangzhi, the eldest son of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai, rejected suggestions he used his father’s position for personal gain and said the downfall of a man he hasn’t seen in five years had destroyed his life.
Li, 34, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the last time he saw his father was at the funeral of his grandfather, Bo Yibo, in early 2007, and he hasn’t had any contact with him since. The former Citigroup Inc. banker, who later went into private equity, said he was in China and not under detention.
Li’s comments seek to dispel speculation he profited from the position of his father, who was suspended earlier this month from the ruling Politburo. The ouster of Bo and the arrest of his wife on suspicion of murder have heightened scrutiny of the family’s business interests and sparked China’s deepest political crisis since the 1989 Tiananmen uprising.
“This incident has destroyed my life,” said Li, who also goes by the name Brendan Li. “I have no way to control how others think, but I have no desire to bask in his glow,” he said, referring to his father.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was taken into custody for involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, Xinhua News Agency reported April 10. The state-run agency said Gu and Heywood had “a conflict over economic interests.” Bo, 62, who was suspended as Communist Party chief of the municipality of Chongqing last month, has been accused of “serious violations of discipline,” the agency said.
Not a Spy
Heywood wasn’t a British spy and “was not an employee of the British government in any capacity,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote in a letter yesterday to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in London.
Li said he didn’t know Heywood or the relationship between Heywood and the Bo family, and said his mother, Li Danyu, has not had any contact with her ex-husband in three decades. Li Danyu and Bo divorced when Li Wangzhi was a child. Li said he left the Bo family “a long time ago.”
Since Bo’s ouster from his posts, details of his extended family’s wealth and business dealings have emerged that show businesses from China to the Caribbean, the U.S. and U.K.
“The spouses and children of some cadres have taken advantage of their power to seek personal gains, disregarding the law, thus stirring public outcry,” state-run Xinhua News Agency said in an April 14 commentary, four days after reporting that Bo had been suspended from the Politburo.
“It’s an obvious fact that my family name isn’t Bo,” Li said when contacted on his mobile phone number.
Bo Xilai’s removal has altered the lives of his extended family, including that of Li’s half-brother and Harvard University student Bo Guagua, 24, and their uncle Bo Xiyong. The uncle on April 25 resigned from Hong Kong-listed alternative energy company China Everbright International Ltd., where he served as vice chairman. Li said he hasn’t had any contact with other Bo family members since the funeral.
Bo Guagua denied reports in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and Daily Telegraph that he led a lavish lifestyle, which included driving a red Ferrari and expensive schooling beyond the means of his father’s salary as a party official. He made the comments in a statement published April 24 in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.
Bo Guagua received three traffic citations in Massachusetts while driving a black 2011 Porsche Panamera, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing Massachusetts Department of Transportation records and people it didn’t identify. The report said the vehicle was registered to a man named James Jun Cui.
The grandfather of Bo Guagua and Li Wangzhi is a former vice premier of China who died in 2007. The family patriarch was one of the so-called eight immortals who helped steer China after the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
After graduating from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York in 2003 with a master’s degree, Li worked for Citigroup. He wouldn’t comment about his time at the New York-based bank, saying he had signed a confidentiality agreement.
After leaving Citigroup he began a career in private equity. He said investments he made in Dalian, where his father was mayor for much of the 1990s, were not very successful.
Li, who said he hasn’t worked since February, is linked to Chong’er Investment & Consultancy Co. by office and e-mail addresses. Chong’er was a Chinese prince in the seventh century B.C. who fled his home in the ancient state of Jin, modern-day Shanxi province and the ancestral home of the Bo, Li and Gu families, because his father made his half-brother the crown prince. Chong’er eventually fought back and took the crown.
Referring to Bo Xilai, he said: “I also want to know if he’s safe.
‘‘I look forward to seeing a fair conclusion to this case,’’ Li said. ‘‘My country’s government will make the correct judgment.’’