US officials to be kept out of American investigator's trial in China

BEIJING, China – U.S. diplomats will be barred from the trial in China of an American investigator for GlaxoSmithKline and her British husband who are charged with improperly selling personal information, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said Friday.

The arrest of Yu Yingzeng and husband Peter Humphrey last year coincided with a Chinese investigation of accusations British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline paid bribes to doctors and officials to use its medications.

Glaxo said it hired Yu and Humphrey last year to investigate a security breach involving a top manager.

The Sunday Times reported that several top executives at the company received anonymous emails about the bribery allegations as well as a secretly recorded video of the firm’s general manager in China, Mark Reilly, having sex with his girlfriend. The report said the company suspected a former employee was behind the emails.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse expressed concern diplomats would be barred from the August trial. He gave no reason for the ban.

Barkhouse said consular officials are permitted to attend such trials under a 1982 agreement between China and the U.S. He said diplomats had been allowed to visit Yu as recently as Wednesday.

A British Embassy official in Beijing declined to say whether its diplomats would be allowed to attend the trial but said British officials were talking to their Chinese counterparts about the issue.

Reilly has been detained by Chinese authorities on charges he had GlaxoSmithKline salespeople pay millions of dollars in bribes to doctors, hospital administrators and others to encourage use of its drugs. Four Chinese employees also have been detained and a police official said in May that dozens of people were implicated, though he gave no details.

Humphrey, a former reporter with the Reuters news agency, and Yu ran the Shanghai-based corporate intelligence and consulting firm ChinaWhys Ltd.

Last year, the Shanghai police department said several dozen reports prepared by them for corporate clients contained information that “seriously violated the legitimate rights of citizens.”

That included home addresses and information on family members, real estate and vehicles, police said. They were sold to clients including manufacturers, law firms and financial institutions.

In August, Humphrey was shown handcuffed on Chinese state television apologizing to the government that they “obtained personal information, sometimes through illegal ways.”