By Tim McLaughlin
BOSTON (Reuters) - The son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government on Thursday, capping a tumultuous academic year that also placed him in the center of his homeland's biggest leadership crisis in two decades.
Bo Guagua, whose perceived lavish lifestyle overseas has created a firestorm on the Internet back in China, wore a black cap and gown with crimson hood when he accepted his diploma at a commencement ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He flashed a broad smile and joined several hundred other students who came from all corners of the globe to study at the Ivy League school.
Bo Guagua received a master's degree in public policy. After stepping off the graduation stage, he waved to friends in the audience.
Approached by Reuters after the ceremony, Bo Guagua declined to talk about his plans.
"I just want to enjoy the day and spend time with my classmates," he said in a British-tinged accent.
He then hugged friends and chatted with faculty.
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.
Last month, Bo Guagua issued a statement expressing concern for his parents and denied reports about his lifestyle, saying he had never driven a Ferrari, for example.
The scandal surrounding his family unfolded in early February after Wang Lijun, the police chief of Chongqing in southwest 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.
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.
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.
In recent weeks, though, Bo Guagua has kept a lower profile. Classmates and acquaintances told Reuters he has skipped some pre-graduation parties on the advice of his family.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu and Vicki Allen)