'I was only trying to help': Peter Humphrey's letter to son insists China detective work was for public good

Peter Humphrey set out his thoughts in letter to son as he awaits trial next month in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 10:38am

Corporate sleuth Peter Humphrey believes he worked for the public good by helping victims of crime, according to a letter seen by the South China Morning Post that he wrote to his son Harvey from prison.

On August 8, the Briton and his wife Yu Yingzeng , a Chinese-born US citizen, will be tried at Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court on a charge of illegally obtaining personal information of Chinese citizens.

"When I became a business consultant 16 years ago, I concentrated on helping distressed companies and individuals who were victims of crime. This I also considered a public service, right up until 10 July last year, and I still do," wrote Humphrey to his son.

Humphrey and Yu were detained in Shanghai in July last year while conducting investigations for British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The couple founded a Shanghai-based risk consultancy called ChinaWhys, which has been closed.

The letter, dated June 9, was passed on to British consular officials, said a family friend.

"This was not in his handwriting because he has difficulty writing due to his worsening arthritis. It is believed to have been dictated to a cellmate."

The letter said: "I have been thinking a lot recently about the importance of public service and my own spirit of service throughout my lifetime. In my 18 years of journalism with the SCMP and Reuters, I always considered my work to be a public service, championing the underdogs and informing the world."

Humphrey was an external contributor to the South China Morning Post from May 2003 to March 2004. He spent two decades as a correspondent with Reuters in Asia, eastern Europe and the Balkans, according to ChinaWhys' website.

In April 2013, senior GSK executives hired Humphrey to investigate a suspected whistle-blower who alleged bribery in GSK's China operations.

Humphrey's letter said he was inspired by US president Theodore Roosevelt's campaign in the early 1900s against corruption and other abuses in the United States. "Rooting out corruption and many other abuses from American society, business and politics, he changed the world," wrote Humphrey.