U.S. 'concerned' about being barred from GSK-linked China trial

Fri Jul 4, 2014 8:37am EDT
 
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By John Ruwitch and Adam Jourdan

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The United States is worried that its officials have been barred from attending the Aug. 7 trial in China of British investigator Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng after the couple were arrested last year following work they did for British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

The concerns, voiced by the U.S. embassy in Beijing, adds a political dimension to the trial, which could become another thorny issue between the two economic powers, already tussling over areas ranging from cyber security and human rights to Chinese policy in the South China Sea.

"We are concerned that consular officers will not be allowed to attend Ms. Yu's trial in August 2014 despite the fact that under the 1982 bilateral consular convention between our two countries consular officials are permitted to attend such trials," U.S. Embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said on Friday.

The British embassy also said it was "engaging" the Chinese authorities about the need for a transparent and fair trial. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The trial of Humphrey and Yu is part of a tangled web of probes into drugmaker GSK, which Chinese police accused last year of funneling up to 3 billion yuan ($482 million) through travel agencies to bribe doctors and officials in China.

The couple are on trial for illegally buying and selling private information. The proceedings will be held behind closed doors with consular officials and the couple's teenage son barred from attending, two family friends with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

ChinaWhys, the risk consultancy run by the couple, was employed by GSK in April 2013 to investigate an ex-employee suspected of sending anonymous emails, including the circulation of an intimate video of former GSK China head Mark Reilly with his girlfriend, as well as emails containing allegations of widespread bribery at the British drugmaker.

Three months later, authorities detained Humphrey and Yu. Chinese authorities have not openly made a link between GSK and the case against ChinaWhys.   Continued...

 
A flag (L) bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GlaxoSmithKline office building in Shanghai July 12, 2013.  REUTERS/Aly Song