LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) - A British corporate investigator freed from a Chinese jail last week has accused officials there of deliberately withholding medical treatment to try to force him to confess to a role in a scandal involving drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK).
Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng returned to Britain on Wednesday evening after being sentenced in August for illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients, including GSK.
Their case unfolded alongside a Chinese investigation of GSK that led to a $489 million fine and has been held up as an example of the potential risks faced by foreigners gathering information in China.
“We arrive here with a heavy toll on our health,” Humphrey said in comments emailed to Reuters via a family friend. “I have a prostate tumor and Ying has kidney disease.
Humphrey, who has disputed allegations of wrongdoing, said during his time in jail, prison officers deliberately obstructed his requests for the appropriate medical attention.
“Every week in captivity I raised requests for the next step in the medical process,” he said. “I was always refused on the grounds that I had not signed an admission of crime.
“Neither I nor Ying have ever admitted any guilt as charged. We were not guilty of the offense with which we were charged and convicted but my health was held hostage to signing such a confession.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Humphrey’s allegations about mistreatment were “not true”.
“The relevant Chinese authorities acted in accordance with the law and guaranteed his rights,” Lu told reporters at a daily news briefing.
Asked about Humphrey’s claims of a forced confession, Lu said, “I am astonished about this. It seems that his stance was different before and after.”
Humphrey and Yu, who ran risk consultancy ChinaWhys, had been asked by GSK to compile a report into the origins of a sex video involving the drug company’s former China head, Mark Reilly, which had been sent to senior executives at GSK along with anonymous emails alleging corruption.
At the time, a GSK spokesman confirmed the video existed but did not comment on how it related to the alleged bribery scandal. He also said GSK, Britain’s largest pharmaceutical firm, had hired ChinaWhys to investigate the video.
Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch in Beijing; Editing by Louise Ireland and Andrew Osborn