From China princeling to US asylum seeker?

Like the good old spy thriller, with twists and turns in every corner, the intriguing tale of fallen Chinese leader Bo Xilai and his family promises to be murkier.

After the arrest of his wife, Madam Gu Kailai, on suspicion of killing 41-year-old Briton Neil Heywood, the son has been forced into the spotlight.

Mr Bo Guagua, the 24-year-old Harrow- and Oxford-educated son, was slipped out of his luxury flat near Harvard University by US officials, London daily The Daily Telegraph claimed.

Experts in the US said he could obtain asylum there since the atmosphere back home is hardly conducive for him to return.

The report quoted sources as saying that officials were seen at his flat on Thursday night in what was said to be a "pre-arranged pick-up by the officials".

Wearing a dark jacket and pulling a roller suitcase, the younger Mr Bo, who was preparing for his final exams for a postgraduate degree, was driven away in a dark sports utility vehicle by a besuited officer wearing a badge.

A source told the newspaper that he "did not look frightened", but seemed anxious to go with them. "He had clearly been expecting it."

The source added that he was accompanied by a female friend.

He was picked up at about 10pm on Thursday, after his friend told the doorman to expect a visitor and gave him an electronic key fob to let him into the underground carpark.

She is believed to have left later in Mr Bo Guagua's Porsche after collecting more luggage. Throughout the day, a group of Chinese men were seen in front of the building.

The younger Mr Bo has been doing a a US$90,000 (S$112,000) course for a master's in public policy at Harvard's prestigious Kennedy School of Government since 2010.

He lives in a luxurious two-bedroom flat on the first storey floor of a seven-storey building near campus that features a doorman, a gym and a roof sundeck, paying US$2,950 a month in rent, the report claimed.

Ever since his father fell from grace and disappeared from public view, speculation has been mounting that the younger Mr Bo may have sought protection from US authorities.

The author of America's asylum law said the son had a compelling case for refuge in the US. Said Mr Bruce Einhorn, a retired judge and professor at Pepperdine University: "If you can establish there's a well-founded fear you would be persecuted in China because you would be imputed with the subversive or corrupt political views of your father, you would be just as eligible for asylum."

But The Telegraph quoted a friend of Mr Bo Guagua as saying that he was determined to return to China to serve his country, which he said he wants to keep on a "path of smooth transition". And a world away, the widow of Mr Heywood is desperately trying to flee China, Daily Mail reported.

The report claimed that the China-born Ms Wang Lulu made a dramatic visit to the British Embassy in Beijing. She is understood to have asked for a visa to go to the UK with her two children. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Beijing refused to confirm or deny Ms Wang's visit on Friday, but confirmed that the family had been offered consular "protection".

He told the Daily Mail: "Mrs Heywood is a Chinese national. If she wants to leave, she can apply for a visa. Her children have British passports."

Visitors to the Heywood family home in a compound in Beijing were turned away by troops from the People's Liberation Army, the report claimed.

The scandal has become the biggest political storm in decades in China and has prompted allegations of corruption in the emerging superpower's secretive highest echelons.

The elder Mr Bo, a charismatic senior Chinese politician once tipped as a future premier, was purged by the ruling Chinese Communist Party this week.

Meanwhile, Madam Gu is suspected of "intentional homicide".

She is accused of plotting the killing of Mr Heywood, a former confidante, whose death in a hotel room last year was initially blamed on alcohol poisoning.

The story now looks certain to ruin the Bo family.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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