BEIJING – The son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai defended his academic record and social life while at university in England and the United States in a letter that was the latest example of the extraordinary public evolution of China's messiest political scandal.
Bo Guagua, a Harvard graduate student, denied that he received preferential treatment in admissions, was a poor student and drove a pricey sports car. In a letter to the Harvard Crimson student newspaper published Tuesday, he said he attended social events as an Oxford University undergraduate to broaden his perspective.
Bo Xilai was believed to have been a leading candidate for one of the nine seats on the ruling Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, but his political career is now considered over. Bo fell out of favor with some in the leadership over his flashy personal style, suspected corruption, and the excesses of a dual campaign to fight gangsters and promote Mao Zedong-era communist culture.
He is under investigation for unspecified malfeasance after being suspended from the Politburo. Since the April 10 announcement of the suspension, accusations of heavy partying by his son have appeared in some Western media reports and on Chinese blogs.
Bo Guagua's mother, Gu Kailai, and an assistant were named at the same time as suspects in the murder last November of British businessman Neil Heywood, whose formerly close relations with the Bo family had soured. Bo Xilai, formerly one of China's most powerful politicians, had earlier been fired as party boss of the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing after his former police chief attempted to defect at the U.S. Consulate.
There has been no official word on the scandal since the announcement of his suspension from the party, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Wednesday that the investigation was proceeding, but gave no details.
"Judicial authorities are handling it according to the law," Liu told reporters at a daily briefing.
In his letter, the 24-year-old Bo Guagua said he was "deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family," but had no further comments on the charges. His parents have not been heard of or seen in public since the announcement of the investigations.
He said his tuition at Harvard, Oxford and the expensive British prep school he attended were covered by scholarships and his mother's earnings as a successful lawyer and author. He also denied ever having lent his name to any for-profit business ventures.
Apparently responding to criticism of photos posted online of him attending parties and posing with school friends, Bo said he participated in normal social events while at Oxford, partly as a way to "broaden my perspective."
"I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank my teachers, friends and classmates for their support during this difficult time," he wrote.
Bo Guagua's whereabouts are not known. British media reported earlier this month that he had left his apartment near Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the company of security guards.
Bo's letter was his first statement on the scandal that has shaken Chinese politics ahead of a once-in-a-generation transition to a new set of younger leaders who will chart the course for the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy.
Widespread access to the Internet and the enormous popularity of China's Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service have spread news about the case in a way unseen in previous Chinese scandals. That has apparently deeply disconcerted a communist leadership more used to intense secrecy about their inner workings, prompting attempts to rein in discussion online by banning searches for sensitive words, including "Bo Guagua."