| CAMBRIDGE, Mass./BEIJING/LONDON, April 13
CAMBRIDGE, Mass./BEIJING/LONDON, April 13 Bo
Guagua, a 24-year-old descendant of Chinese Communist royalty,
seemed destined to one day become a rich and powerful
businessman in an economy that in his lifetime would become the
His pedigree, elite schooling, easy confidence and
connections left those who knew him in no doubt he would pursue
a business career and amass a fortune.
That was until a British expatriate, Neil Heywood, died last
November in a hotel in a huge city in western China, a world
away from the clipped lawns and hushed libraries of Harvard
University where Bo was studying. The story now looks certain to
ruin his family and upend his ambitions.
People are no longer sure of young Bo's fate: return to his
family in China, seek asylum in the United States, or other
"Now he is an orphan," a source close to Bo's family said.
Late Friday, the UK Daily Telegraph reported that Bo Guagua,
pulling a roller suitcase, slipped out of his apartment building
late on Thursday night, in a pre-arranged pickup by
Bo Guagua's mother, Gu Kailai, has been detained on
suspicion of murdering Heywood, who for years had close ties to
the Bo family. His father, Bo Xilai, one of China's most
charismatic and ambitious politicians, has been stripped of all
his roles within the top echelons of the Chinese communist
The young man's family connections, which can be traced to
his grandfather Bo Yibo, a revolutionary comrade of Mao Zedong,
are now seen as poisonous rather than profitable in a country
where personal relationships, or guangxi, are often the key to
Bo Guagua could not be contacted, and the status of his
postgraduate career at Harvard, where he has been studying for a
master's degree, is uncertain. University officials have
declined to comment, citing their strict privacy policies.
SUSPENDED FROM OXFORD
Harvard classmates and others who know Bo from China and
Oxford say he is not the quiet type: He likes socializing and
has at times neglected his studies, much to his parents'
displeasure. He has also shown a fondness for luxury cars, once
chauffeuring an American girl, the daughter of a diplomat,
around Beijing in a Ferrari.
While at Balliol College, Oxford, from 2007, Bo Guagua
gained a reputation as a party boy. He was "rusticated" -
effectively suspended - for 12 months for academic reasons, said
a source familiar with his Oxford days. Some Chinese diplomats
even visited the university, northwest of London, to check on
his progress, the source added.
Oxford University officials had no comment.
In an interview published in the Chinese press in 2009, Bo
gushed about Oxford and revealed his secret for maintaining a
strong mix of pleasure and study - to sleep only four to five
hours a night. He quoted an old Chinese saying, "A slow bird
should make an early start."
In 2010, a year later than expected, Bo graduated with high
marks in politics, philosophy, and economics.
One Oxford academic said Bo came across as having the kind
of keen intelligence that would have enabled him to keep up his
course work while finding plenty of time to have fun. The
academic recalled Bo as ambitious, sharp and argumentative.
Bo Guagua's name surfaces only sporadically in public
accounts of Oxford student life, but what little there is shows
drive and at times a sense of responsibility.
According to the independent Oxford student newspaper
Cherwell, Bo was runner-up in the contest for Librarian - the de
facto head - of the Oxford Union, an illustrious debating
society that counts several British prime ministers among its
former office holders.
He also once lead the PPE Society, another debating group,
reflecting his interests in philosophy, politics and economic.
In 2008 the society was part of a joint effort to raise relief
funds for those affected by a devastating earthquake in China's
Sichuan province, which killed an estimated 68,000 people.
A smiling photograph on Bo's infrequently used public
Facebook page shows him at Oxford, wearing a pink T-shirt. T he
page lists his date of birth as December 17, 1987.
SOON TO GRADUATE?
Bo appears to have left a smaller footprint at Harvard
University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he has
been studying public policy. Part of the class of 2012 in the
two-year program, he is due to graduate in May after final
Bo's university directory page lists his work experience as
a 2009 stint with China's Yichun County government and an
internship with the Chinese Ministry of Education that same
year. Also during his Oxford years he is listed as founder of
Beijing-based Guagua Internet Company (2009-2010), which appears
to be defunct.
He has also been developing a social network,
www.guagua.com, though it has yet to be launched, said a Chinese
businessman who knows him well.
"He wants to make a billion dollars and be politically
important," the businessman said.
Harvard spokesman Doug Gavel would not comment on how Bo
Guagua was financing his expensive graduate studies - just the
latest in more than a decade of study abroad. Media reports
suggest Bo Guagua's education has been bankrolled by a Chinese
billionaire businessman. His family has said he received
scholarships to various institutions.
On its website, Harvard estimates that expenses for the
upcoming academic year for international students at the Kennedy
School would come to about $70,000, "based upon conservative
estimates of living expenses."
Bo's lifestyle has seemed far removed from the austerity
experienced by many graduate students.
A Harvard source said he believed Bo lived in "The
Residences at Charles Square," an upscale condominium building
near the school, though this could not be confirmed. The
building overlooks the Charles River and has views of downtown
Boston. A three-bedroom apartment there recently fetched $1.8
million, while rents for two-bedroom apartments are around
$3,700 a month.
Student sources say Bo took an active role in organizing a
2011 "China Trek" for Kennedy students, where the contingent of
graduate students met dignitaries such as Central Bank Governor
Zhou Xiaochuan and Commerce Minister Chen Deming.
The trekkers visited Chongqing, where Bo Xilai was then head
of the Communist Party, and were surprised to be greeted by a
police motorcade. "Everyone knew he was somebody important
because of the meetings he arranged and also the long police
escort. That was really surprising," a classmate said.
In the current academic year, Bo won a grant from the
school's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation to
work with fellow student Jennifer Choi on a project called
"Transparency and Engagement Solutions for Nonprofits in China."
Choi, a candidate for a joint MBA/Kennedy School degree, is
an intern in the fashion industry. She did not respond to
In an email, Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center and a
professor of international affairs, deferred to university
policy in declining to comment further.
On a typical Thursday, Bo would have been in Saich's class -
"The Political Economy of Transition in China" - studying the
country he has lived in only sporadically since leaving at age
12 to study at British boarding schools Papplewick and Harrow
before going on to Oxford.
Fellow Harvard students say Bo has not been seen around
At the end of March, Bo wrote the Times of London, asking
the British media to leave him out of politics and let him focus
on his studies. "Regardless of the current state of affairs, I
have only the hope that China continues on a path of smooth
transition," the paper quoted him as saying in an email.