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The son of fallen Chinese politburo member Bo Xilai has enrolled in Columbia University’s School of Law, according to records online and confirmations given to a number of media organizations by sources inside and outside China.
A person by the name of Bo Guagua, a name unusual in Chinese, was found to be enrolled in the University’s law program on July 29 by the Beijing-based journalist Vincent Ni, who posted a picture of the university’s public directory to Twitter.
When contacted by Epoch Times, the public affairs office of Columbia University responded with an email stating: “Under applicable law and as a matter of University policy, we don’t comment on our applicants and students.” At some point on Monday, the university removed from public view Bo’s entry in the university directory. According to The New York Times and other agencies, the Bo Guagua enrolled is indeed the son of Bo Xilai.
Bo, a former member of the Chinese Communist Party’s highest-level body known as the Politburo, has been indicted for bribery, corruption, and abuse of power and is expected to stand trial in the coming weeks. He has been under detention and Party disciplinary interrogation for the last 18 months. Political analysts project that Bo could receive anything from a 15 year prison sentence to a suspended death sentence when he is convicted—a certainty in China, given that most judicial decisions, especially highly politically-charged ones, are made by secretive Party committees before the actual trials.
Bo Guagua’s mother, Gu Kailai, the second wife of Bo Xilai, is currently serving a suspended death sentence for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.
Bo Guagua is understood to have been living in the United States since he received a Master’s degree in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in May 2012, a course he undertook after completing an undergraduate degree at Oxford. In a response to critics who alleged that he is being bankrolled with embezzled money, he claimed that his education was funded by scholarships and his mother’s income as a lawyer.
Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post that enrollment in Columbia “is a rather logical choice given the fact that his mother is in prison and his father will likely serve a prison sentence. Staying outside China will probably give him a better environment to pursue his academic studies, and it can also be speculated that with both parents in prison the family would need someone to manage the family’s financial assets outside the country.”
Columbia University’s School of Law is one of the most expensive law schools in the country, with total costs per year estimated to be up to $82,795. Many observers question how Bo Guagua will find the means to pay for tuition; the idea that he has access to some of the vast wealth accumulated by his family and stored overseas is common.
Continuing his education in the US will shield him from Chinese authorities and allow him to extend his student visa. “If the old man doesn’t accept his crimes, they’ll go after his son,” Hu Ping, a New York-based exile and political commentator, wrote in the Human Rights in China Biweekly this month.
“Bo Xilai has to cooperate with the authorities to make sure his son can avoid trouble.”
After the arrest of his parents, it was rumored that Bo Guagua was helicoptered to a safe house under the protection of US authorities. There have also been unconfirmed claims that the elder Bo has struck a deal with prosecutors in order to keep his son safe.