July 2, 2014 7:29 pm
China to try GSK couple ‘in secret’
By Tom Mitchell in Beijing and Andrew Ward in London,
Peter Humphrey on China state television
The British investigator and his American wife and business partner detained in China because of their work for GlaxoSmithKline will be tried in secret as concerns grow about their health, according to people close to the family.
US consular officials were informed on Wednesday by Chinese authorities that they would not be able to attend the trial of Peter Humphrey, and his wife, Yu Yingzeng, “on grounds of privacy”, a family friend told the Financial Times. The trial, originally scheduled for July 29, has been delayed until August 7.
The couple ran a Shanghai-based investigative firm and were hired in April last year by GSK to look into who had placed a camera in the bedroom of the British pharmaceutical firm’s top manager in China, Mark Reilly. A film of Mr Reilly in bed with his Chinese girlfriend had been emailed to GSK’s chief executive, Andrew Witty, in March that year.
While trials in China are often closed on grounds of national security, closing one because of alleged concerns over privacy is extremely rare.
Mr Humphrey and Ms Yu were also looking into the source of a series of emails sent to Chinese regulators in 2012, alleging that corrupt practices were rife at GSK’s China operations. Mr Reilly, who left China when they were arrested and then returned to Shanghai to aid in their investigation, was this May one of 46 employees identified by the Chinese police as a suspect implicated in “massive and systemic bribery”.
The couple will face one charge of illegally purchasing private information. Another charge, of running an illicit business, has been dropped.
Chinese officials also indicated that the couple’s teenage son, who has not seen his parents since they were detained a year ago in Shanghai, will be barred from the court proceedings.
“I am very worried that family and consular officials are not allowed to attend my parents’ trial. This does not involve state secrets. This does not involve national security. It is about two private individuals, my parents,” Harvey Humphrey said in a statement. “I am surprised at this decision since China wants to promote openness and the rule of law and I hope that they will let me in. I am shocked and upset. I miss my parents, who are not in good health.”
A former journalist, Mr Humphrey was regarded as one of the most experienced investigators working in China. He and Ms Yu founded their firm, ChinaWhys, in 2003 and ran it together in a close partnership. Mr Humphrey was the public face of the business while his wife focused on day-to-day operations.
According to two people close to the family, Mr Humphrey is suffering from a hernia and has difficulty walking and standing. Ms Yu, a China-born US citizen, has kidney problems.
Mr Humphrey and Ms Yu were originally detained in Shanghai on July 10, 2013. Shanghai police travelled to Beijing on the same day to search the couple’s Beijing home, according to one person close to the family.
GSK did not until earlier this week confirm it had employed them. Friends of the couple have expressed concern the British company did not fully brief them of the seriousness of the corruption allegations it was facing, the most detailed of which were outlined in two emails sent to GSK directors in January and May of 2013. GSK declined to comment.
According to the family friend, Ms Yu told US consular officials that “we got caught up in a war unintentionally, but I have no grudges”.