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Son of Bo Xilai defends his record, lifestyle at Harvard

Amid allegations of family corruption, the son of disgraced former Chinese Communist Party leader Bo Xilai publicly defended his own record and pushed back against rumors of a lavish lifestyle in a statement to the Harvard University student newspaper, saying that his expensive education was paid by scholarships and savings.

But Bo Guagua sidestepped any contemplation of the investigation of his mother, accused of murder, and his father, who’s been stripped of his seat on the nation’s politburo and as party secretary of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.

“I am deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family, but I have no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation,” Bo Guagua, a 24-year-old post-graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote in a letter posted online on Tuesday.

Bo Guagua said he wanted to clarify that the bills for his tuition and living expenses at an exclusive British boarding school, followed by Oxford University and now Harvard were footed by “scholarships earned independently, and my mother’s generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer.” He did not name the source of the scholarships.

Bo Guagua, corresponding with staff writers of The Harvard Crimson, also addressed one of the more colorful rumors about his allegedly high-flying life: “I have never driven a Ferrari.”

The downfall of his father has created one of the biggest Chinese political scandals in decades. Once seen as a candidate for the country’s standing committee politburo, the epicenter of power here, Bo Xilai plummeted from favor after his former police chief turned up at an American consulate in February, possibly seeking asylum. It’s been widely reported, but not yet officially confirmed, that the police chief had quarreled with Bo Xilai after telling him that his wife was linked to the killing of a British businessman last November.

On April 10, state media announced that Gu Kailai -- Bo Xilai’s wife and Bo Guagua’s mother – was “highly suspected” in the case of the intentional homicide of the Briton. That same day, Bo Xilai was suspended from the politburo; he’d already been sacked from his Chongqing post. The reports by the official Xinhua newswire also mentioned that the dead businessman had previously been on “good terms” with both Gu and Bo Guagua.

Bo Guagua’s purported extravagances were not related to any of those events, but they fueled public perception of a hereditary elite awash in wealth and privilege.

Apparently in response to photographs that have circulated of him at parties, often with women and alcohol, Bo wrote that, “During my time at Oxford, it is true that I participated in ‘Bops,’ a type of common Oxford social event, many of which are themed. These events are a regular feature of social life at Oxford and most students take part in these college-wide activities.”

His grades at Oxford, though, were good, Bo Guagua said, and he devoted time to a number of extracurricular activities. “I am proud,” he wrote, “to have been the first mainland Chinese student to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Oxford Union.”

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