The name of Bo Guagua was removed from Columbia University's online student directory yesterday, as mainland censors briefly blocked social media posts about the scion of the once-powerful Bo family.
The South China Morning Post revealed on Monday that the son of disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai appeared to have enrolled in Columbia Law School for the autumn term. The New York Times later confirmed the move, citing "a family associate from Beijing with high-level contacts".
The internet began buzzing about the younger Bo's academic plans after a student bearing his unusual name appeared on the New York university's online directory. By yesterday, the directory listing was no longer publicly available.
The university said it would not comment on its applicants or students and declined to say why the directory item had been removed.
Enrolling in the three-year programme at the elite law school would allow the younger Bo to stay abroad during his parents' legal troubles.
Bo Xilai is expected to face trial next month after his indictment last week on bribery, embezzlement and abuse-of-power charges. If convicted he could face life in prison, or even the death penalty.
His wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence last year for murdering a British businessman.
The younger Bo graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government last year and holds an undergraduate degree from Oxford University.
Microblog blog posts about the younger Bo, whose name has occasionally been censored, were allowed after being briefly blocked yesterday morning. His decision to continue his overseas education was the subject of much speculation - and a little humour - online.
"Perhaps he can get his parents out on medical parole," Hunan University law scholar Chun Fengzhu joked.
Others questioned how his family would pay for yet another expensive degree from an overseas institution. The elder Bo has reportedly been accused of accepting 20 million yuan (HK$25 million) in bribery and embezzling another five million yuan.
The financial magazine Caijing has reported that the main source of the bribes was Xu Ming , a billionaire who met the elder Bo when he was mayor of Dalian , Liaoning , in the 1990s.
Xu, who ranked No 8 on Forbes Asia's China Rich List in 2008, was detained by authorities and disappeared from public eye in March last year.
The Caijing report said Bo, who was also a member of the Communist Party's decision-making Politburo, abused his power by asking Chongqing's police chief to cover up his wife's murder of the British businessman, Neil Heywood.
A Chongqing police official confirmed the report, telling the Post that the information was revealed in a document that had circulated among high officials in recent days. The Caijing story was removed from major news portals after it publication.