BEIJING - The son of Chinese politician Bo Xilai has spoken out for the first time since his father's ouster and mother's arrest for murder, expressing deep concern for his parents and responding to reports about his lavish lifestyle and questions over who funded his overseas schooling.
His mother, Gu Kailai, has been detained on suspicion of murdering a British businessman, while his father Bo Xilai has been stripped of his Communist Party Politburo seat and placed under investigation for disciplinary violations in the biggest crisis to shake China's leadership in two decades.
In an statement published on Tuesday by the student newspaper at Harvard University, where he was studying, Bo Guagua said he felt compelled to provide "an account of the facts" to refute speculation about his private and family life.
"I am deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family, but I have no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation," Bo said in an emailed statement issued through The Harvard Crimson.
Bo Guagua could not be reached by Reuters for comment and his whereabouts are unclear following reports he left his Harvard apartment within days of his father's ouster.
The scandal unfolded in early February after Wang Lijun, the police chief of Chongqing in south west China, entered the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu. According to British officials, he made allegations while in the consulate about the suspicious death of Briton Neil Heywood, a close associate of Gu who is now in custody for his murder.
Bo Xilai was the party boss of Chongqing at the time with ambitions to ascend to China's top leadership later this year.
Even before his parents' troubles, Bo Guagua, 24, had become the subject of gossip in China for his elite schooling and perceived extravagance. Media reported a fondness for luxury cars and raised questions about how the family could afford to send him to some of the world's top schools and universities, including Harrow, Oxford and Harvard, on his father's limited state salary.
The children of China's leaders are the closely watched by many Chinese. Bo Guagua became the focus of online gossip when photos appeared of him bare chested and smeared with lipstick at a college party and participating in campus pranks in Britain.
Bo said it was impossible to address all the rumors and allegations made about him but he would zero in on the "most pertinent", including a report that he had driven a Ferrari to pick up the daughter of the U.S. ambassador at his residence.
"I have never driven a Ferrari," he wrote in the emails. "I have also not been to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since 1998 (when I obtained a previous U.S. Visa), nor have I ever been to the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in China."
He said his student visas were issued by the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu "which is closer to my home of five years."
He also sought to dampen speculation over financial improprieties involving his tuition fees.
"My tuition and living expenses at Harrow School, University of Oxford and Harvard University were funded exclusively by two sources — scholarships earned independently, and my mother's generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer," he said.
Bo also provided details on his academic record, saying his examination records were solid throughout his schooling years and that he had graduated from Oxford with good, but not outstanding, marks.
He sought to explain the wilder image of himself seen in the widely circulated photos, saying they were college-organized parties commonly attended by students at Oxford.
"These events are a regular feature of social life at Oxford and most students take part in these college-wide activities."
He stressed that he had never worked for a for-profit business, but that he was involved in developing a non-profit social networking website for NGOs in China in a project tied to the Harvard Innovation Lab. The project is still in development, he said.
Benjamin Samuels, president of The Harvard Crimson, said he is "very confident" Bo Guagua's statement is legitimate. The paper said it had received Bo Guagua's comments from his university and personal email accounts.
Neither parent could be reached for comment. Bo Xilai, in his last public appearance, decried critics for vilifying his policies and family.
(Reporting by James Pomfret in BEIJING and Ros Krasny in BOSTON, writing by Brian Rhoads in Hong Kong,; Editing by Ken Wills and Don Durfee)