Ex-Balliolite in expat murder mystery

News University News

The downfall of one of China’s most powerful politicians has led to intense scrutiny of his Oxford-educated son.

The lavish private life of Bo Guagua, who studied PPE at Balliol, drew international media attention after his father, then the Communist Party Secretary, was dramatically ousted from power.

Shortly after Gua Gua’s mother Gu Xilai was arrested in connection to the murder of British businessman Neil Haywood.

Gua Gua, whose penchant for Ferraris and extravagant spending has been exposed by the press, was also “notorious hack” in his Oxford days, according to one former classmate.

“He was well-known as a party boy. I remember in Fresher’s Week, he bought an enormous amount of champagne for everyone and had a huge party in his room,” he said.

Gua Gua was an ambitious member of the Oxford Union, according to friends, and narrowly lost a bid for the position of Treasurer in 2008.

One former student recalled how the former Balliol student’s extravagant spending and wealthy family had acted as a gateway to success in student elections: “I remember that he would be constantly buying students things. Everything from an umbrella when it rained, at one end of the scale, to lifetime membership of the Union on the other.”

An unnamed classmate of Gua Gua’s told The Daily Telegraph: “He never held back on spending. He was always buying people drinks… [On one occasion] a whole bunch of Chinese students came to vote for Guagua. They couldn’t as they had only joined the day before. Guagua tried to argue about it but there was nothing he could do.”

The newspaper also reported that the Chinese student famously paid for membership of the Oxford Conservative Association with a £50 note plucked from a wallet containing around £500 cash.

Gua Gua had been a regular feature of The Oxford Student’s gossip columns, appearing twice in the Top 50 during his time at Oxford.

According to one entry, the constant hacking in elections led to his name becoming a spoof verb, ‘to guagua’.

The definition reads thus: “To seize power through a combination of smooth pleasantries, overwhelming financial might, and the uncertain knowledge of what will happen to your family if you fail to please him.”

He was rusticated after underperforming in his PPE course and reportedly spent some of his year out in a luxury suite in the Randolph.

According to a fellow classmate at Balliol, Chinese secret servicemen and diplomats descended on Oxford after Bo was rusticated, begging his tutors to reconsider; they declined.

Reuters, The Mail on Sunday, the Guardian and The New York Times, among countless other media, have also speculated on Guagua’s student exploits at Oxford, as well as his future.

The Bo Xilai affair became an international scandal after the Chinese authorities arrested his wife, Gu Kailai, in connection with the death of Neil Heywood, a British businessman.

Heywood was found dead after what is understood to be a business dispute with Mrs Gu, which, according to close friends, had led to concerns over his safety.

The Chinese government initially reported that Heywood had died of alcohol poisoning, but family members protested he was not a heavy drinker.

After pressure from British cabinet ministers and David Cameron, the Chinese re-opened the inquiry and are now treating Mrs Gu as a chief suspect in a murder case.

On Wednesday the Prime Minister met with Li Changchun, the Communist Party’s chief of propaganda, who promised a full investigation into the case.

Mr Cameron offered “any necessary assistance” to the Chinese government although the offer has not yet been taken up.