BEIJING (AP) — Two private investigators, a Briton and an American, have been arrested in Shanghai on charges of illegally trading in personal information about Chinese citizens, police announced Tuesday.

The announcement was the first official word on Peter Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu, a married couple who operate ChinaWhys Ltd., an investigation firm in Shanghai that serves corporate clients. They were detained in July.

The communist Beijing government operates an extensive surveillance network to track China's public but is tightening controls on access to personal information by companies and individuals.

Communist leaders were embarrassed last year by news reports that disclosed details about the family wealth of Xi Jinping, the new ruling party leader, and retiring Premier Wen Jiabao.

Earlier, several Chinese companies complained about investigations into their operations and finances that led to a fall in their share prices on foreign stock exchanges.

At least 10 reports prepared by Humphrey and Yu contained information that infringed the privacy rights of Chinese citizens, the Shanghai police department said in a written statement. It said they were formally arrested on Aug. 16.

Their detention coincided with the announcement of an investigation into possible bribery of doctors by employees of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. That prompted suggestions their case might be linked to Glaxo, but Tuesday's announcement made no mention of that.

Tuesday's announcement said Shanghai police are investigating 126 people on suspicion of improperly gathering personal information and have detained 35.

ChinaWhys says its services include screening potential employees or business partners.

Humphrey, a former reporter for the Reuters news agency, has worked as an investigator for the past 14 years in Asia, focusing on white-collar crime prevention, fraud investigation and crisis mitigation, according to the ChinaWhys website.

Yu has worked for or advised companies in the United States, Hong Kong and China in technology, medical products and other industries over a 25-year business career, according to the company.

 

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