The United States has expressed concern after its officials were barred from the Chinese trial of two investigators for British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline who are accused of illegally buying and selling private information.
The arrest last year of American Yu Yingzeng and her British husband Peter Humphrey coincided with Chinese accusations that GSK bribed doctors and officials to use its medications. They face trial on August 7.
The US concerns, voiced by its embassy in Beijing, adds a political dimension to the trial, which could become another thorny issue between the two powers.
"We are concerned that consular officers will not be allowed to attend Ms Yu's trial, despite the fact that under the 1982 bilateral consular convention between our two countries consular officials are permitted to attend such trials," US embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said.
The British embassy said it was "engaging" Chinese authorities about the need for a transparent and fair trial.
The trial is part of a tangled web of investigations into GSK, which Chinese police accuse of funnelling up to 3 billion yuan through travel agencies to bribe doctors and officials.
ChinaWhys, the risk consultancy run by Humphrey and Yu, was employed by GSK in April last year to investigate a former employee suspected of sending anonymous e-mails, including an intimate video of former GSK China head Mark Reilly with his girlfriend, as well as allegations of widespread bribery at GSK.
Three months later, authorities detained Humphrey and Yu. Reilly has been charged along with other GSK executives with bribery and corruption.
In a note written last year when he was already in detention, and seen by Reuters yesterday, Humphrey said he felt "cheated" by GSK, adding that the drugmaker had not shared the full details of the bribery allegations against them contained in the 23 e-mails from an anonymous whistle-blower.
"GSK only asked us to do a background investigation on the suspected whistle-blower. They never asked us to investigate the allegations and they did not tell us the details of the allegations," he said in the note.
GSK said the allegations raised in the whistle-blower's e-mails were deeply concerning and that the firm had zero tolerance for any kind of corruption.