During the trial of former Chinese official Bo Xilai, Chinese Internet users have been transfixed over the past several days as the curtain has been pulled back on the lifestyle of the formerly enviable Chinese political family. While Bo himself has been the star, the behavior of his son has also been an item of intense focus.
The most sensational anecdote relayed during the proceedings came from Gu Kailai, the matriarch of the family who is now serving a suspended death sentence for murdering a British businessman. She said that Xu Ming, a family friend and entrepreneur based in northeastern China, paid over $100,000 for Bo Guagua and some companions to go on a trip to Africa.
“After Guagua came back, he brought myself and Bo Xilai a little present,” she said.
“It was meat from a very rare animal.”
Bo Guagua said that it should be eaten raw, but his father objected: it must be cooked. “Guagua was very cross, he said that it was very expensive and you’ll ruin it if you cook it,” Gu said. Bo Xilai prevailed. After the meat was steamed, Gu continued, “Guagua cut it into slices. This chunk of meat we tucked into for a whole month.”
That chunk of news quickly went viral on the Internet, as Chinese netizens began parodying it and discussing which wines to pair with which rare meats.
Apart from rare African meat, according to Gu’s testimony Bo Guagua was also treated by Xu Ming to a motorized transportation unit called a Segway, worth 85,000 yuan ($13,000).
Bo Guagua also allegedly funneled bribes to Bo Xilai. The amount was not clear, but the prosecutors said that Gu Kailai and her son passed on 21 million yuan ($3.4 million) to Bo Xilai from businessmen Tang Xiaolin and Xu Ming.
Xu Ming, ever generous, also reportedly footed the bill for air tickets and hotels for Bo Guagua to the tune of millions of yuan, over the eight year period from 2004 to 2012. He also reportedly helped pay several tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt that the young man had racked up.
Previous reporting in the English-language press, based on anecdotes gathered during Bo Guagua’s time while studying abroad, depict a privileged wastrel with little interest in his academic work. The Daily Telegraph, based in London, said that Bo Guagua was “described as living a lavish lifestyle while at Oxford.” After he failed exams and was suspended, he lived in a luxury unit at the Randolph Hotel, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Images that have been spread across the Chinese Internet show Bo Guagua with ruffled shirts, or in one instance no shirt at all, with women grasping him. Alcohol appeared to have featured in some of the social events he attended while at college overseas. Such behavior is normal for college students, but in China the images struck a nerve, appearing to show the son of a powerful official enjoying outside China the privilege and ill-gotten gains of his father’s political career.
Bo Xilai, for his part, was preoccupied with ensuring that Bo Guagua was provided for, according to parts of the transcript. On Aug. 24, Wang Lijun said that Bo Xilai once asked him: “Do you think you’re able to be responsible for protecting Guagua when he’s in America. Do you have that ability?”
Wang continued, talking to Bo in the courtroom: “Having me protect Guagua, this sentence you said to me basically every week. You said ‘In our family he’s the only one with good prospects, who could really be someone.’”