Li Wangzhi, third row right, Tang Baiqiao, third row left, with other graduate students at Columbia University. (Internet photo)
Li Wangzhi on his cell phone in a photo on the Columbia University alumni page. (Internet photo)
Li Wangzhi, the son of Bo Xilai and his first wife Li Danyu, was born in 1977 and compared with his playboy half brother Bo Guagua lives a much more low-profile existence. Searches for him on the internet return only a modest amount of information, yet he is certainly just as accomplished an individual.
After graduating from Peking University, Li went abroad to study law at the graduate school of Columbia University in the United States and has served as a lawyer after his return to China a couple of years ago.
His mother Li Danyu changed his surname from Bo to Li after they were abandoned by Bo Xilai. Bo refused to follow a court verdict to pay alimony to his wife and son, causing them financial difficulties as well as emotional scarring.
It was not until the late 1990s when Bo Xilai saw his eldest son enrolled in China's most prestigious university that he decided to take his son under his wing once more.
According to an inside source, when Bo Xilai was mayor of Dalian in northeast China, he once called a director surnamed Gao in the Dalian Development Zone to tell him that an important guest would be arriving soon and he was to stand by and serve. Gao waited from 8:30am until 11:00am when the guest finally arrived and turned out to be Li Wangzhi who had come up from Beijing for his summer vacation. Gao reportedly felt uncomfortable and humiliated by Bo's bluff.
Gao also said Bo did not arrange for his eldest son to stay with him, but rather ordered Gao to take Li to a hotel under the city's board of education so as not to offend his new wife Gu Kailai and so that Li would not see the unruly and luxurious lifestyle of his other son, Bo Guagua. All the travel costs for Li were paid for out of the public purse.
Later, when Li told his father he needed money to take up a place at Columbia, Bo took a small fraction of the money he plundered through his party positons in Liaoning province to sponsor him in a gesture to improve their relationship.
When Li was studying at Columbia, he became close to the Chinese political dissident Tang Baiqiao, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen student protests of 1989. Tang said his first impression of Li was that he was "energetic, glamorous and delicate." Li loved sports, was very good-looking yet had a proud and unapproachable demeanor.
Li lived in the dorm assigned by the university and shared a room with others, yet according to Tang he never attended parties held by other Chinese students in order to keep clear of trouble. He was very interested in issues of democracy and human rights, even placing articles promoting democracy on his Yahoo page. Though he was thus apparently not afraid of being censured by the Communist Party, he was in fact under surveillance from the time he befriended Tang. Around Christmas 2001, he disappeared mysteriously for three days. After he came back, he told Tang that they could not see each other again as someone had become aware of their friendship and told him to cut off their ties. After this the two did not speak but only nodded to each other on campus until the time they both graduated from Columbia.
Li Wangzhi 李望知
Tang Baiqiao 唐柏橋