China Trial of Two Foreign Investigators Begins

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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SHANGHAI--A married British-American couple went on trial Friday in Shanghai for alleged breaches of privacy.

The appearance in Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court of 58-year-old Briton Peter William Humphrey and his partner and wife, Yu Yingzeng, 60, a U.S. citizen, marked the couple's first court date since they were detained in the middle of last year.

The couple's surprise arrest last year came days after Chinese authorities publicly leveled bribery allegations against drug giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which had hired the investigators to conduct part of an internal probe into malfeasance into its local operations.

The prosecutor opened Friday's proceedings by reading the indictment, which alleged Mr. Humphrey and Ms. Yu illegally obtained more than 200 records of Chinese citizens between April 2009 to July 2013, according to an account published on the court's official microblog. "It's serious and such behavior is against Chinese criminal law," the prosecutor said, while reading the indictment.

The court indicated that it would initially handle allegations against Mr. Humphrey and that Ms. Yu would be led out of the court.

Mr. Humphrey was asked whether the indictment is correct, the official account of the proceedings said. "In general, it looks as if there is nothing wrong. But regarding the indictment, I don't understand the Chinese law so I'm not in a position to comment," the court's microblog account quoted Mr. Humphrey as saying.

The court prosecutor also asked them about the formation of their investigative firm, ChinaWhys Co., and their business between Hong Kong and mainland China.

The initial minutes of the trial covered procedural issues such as confirmation of whether the defendants had seen the indictment handed down within the past 10 days or so. They were detained in July 2013 and formally arrested the following month.

The couple was represented by attorneys; consular officials also attended the trial, along with family members.

The court released a photo of the couple standing before the judge.

The Shanghai court said the trial was open. Some visitors who hoped to attend were told there were no seats. Foreign media weren't permitted to enter the courtroom, and instead were invited to watch summaries of the proceedings as they were published online from an anteroom that featured an oversize computer screen. Police sat in the back row.

--Fanfan Wang in Shanghai and Yang Jie in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to James T. Areddy at james.areddy@wsj.com and Laurie Burkitt at laurie.burkitt@wsj.com

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