By Tim McLaughlin
(Reuters) - The son of disgraced Chinese senior politician Bo Xilai does not plan to return to his homeland for his father's trial as he prepares for his first year at Columbia Law School in New York, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Last week, China charged Bo Xilai, 64, with bribery, abuse of power and corruption, in the country's biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution. Bo, who has not been seen in public for 17 months, could appear in a court in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan within weeks.
Meanwhile, his son, Bo Guagua, 25, has enrolled at the prestigious Columbia law school in New York City, where he begins his orientation next month, according to two people familiar with the situation. They said he would not be attending his father's trial.
A Columbia school directory lists Bo as an incoming law student but the law school declined to comment on his enrollment. Bo did not return email messages seeking comment.
Since graduating from Harvard University in May 2012 with a master's degree in public policy, Bo Guagua has kept a low profile. He has a circle of friends and acquaintances in Boston and was at the Boston Marathon on April 15, when two bombs ripped through the crowd near the finish line.
Just a few blocks from the mayhem, the uninjured Bo Guagua was waiting for friends to finish the race. He was walking two small dogs and told a Reuters reporter that he had not had any contact with his mother and father in more than a year.
Guagua's mother, Gu Kailai, is in prison after being convicted last year in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
His friends and acquaintances say Bo would like to challenge the negative perception of his parents more forcefully but he has said very little publicly because he fears it could only make matters worse.
In the past year, Bo Guagua has talked to friends and acquaintances about the differences between the U.S. and Chinese justice systems. He has told these people, who declined to be identified, that even U.S. courts, as much as he admires them, still are not insulated from political pressures, especially when exercising judicial review.
He concedes the Chinese courts still are not fully formed and, just like before the 1803 landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case Marbury vs. Madison, politics still dominate the Chinese legal system, he has told friends.
(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Bill Trott)