A British fraud investigator has made a exceptionally unusual "public confession" on Chinese state television, wearing handcuffs and dressed in an orange prison vest.
Peter Humphrey, 57, along with his American wife and business partner Yu Yingzeng, 60, have been detained for illegally buying and selling the personal data of Chinese citizens, according to local media.
Humphrey, a Reuters journalist for two decades and fluent in Mandarin, and his wife ran Hong Kong-based fraud-investigation company ChinaWhys.
The company, which acts as a private eye for investors in China, describes itself on its website as "international business advisors with eyes in China, walking multinationals through the labyrinth of opportunity, risk and unfamiliar cultural environment."
A former client of Humphrey is the multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which the Chinese government is investigating in a corruption probe.
Humphrey, whose face was blurred, spoke in Chinese in the three-minute broadcast, saying: “The method by which we acquired information was sometimes illegal. I am regretful about this, and I want to apologise to the Chinese government.”
No mention was made of GSK in the short broadcast. Other shots included Chinese officers laying out charges against the pair, as detectives raided filing cabinets, and examined computer equipment.
A police investigator in Shanghai, Lu Wei, said on the government-run CCTV that the couple gathered date on home registrations, international travel and property records and sold the information to lawyers, multinationals and financial institutions.
Ms Yu was quoted in the Legal Daily, translated by the Financial Times, as saying: “The market demand exists in this industry but some information is hard to acquire by legal methods. In order to meet the clients’ requirement, we thus take illegal means to acquire it.”
Disgraced party officials often film public apologies and confessions after corruption investigations, which are then broadcast on state television.
But it is thought to be the first time a foreigner has been filmed making such a confession.
A diplomatic source told the Times that reporters for the state media were called to an unusual mass briefing in Shanghai on Monday and told how to cover the story.
In January, four Chinese employees of a unit of Dun & Bradstreet, were jailed for buying personal data of Chinese citizens.
The British Embassy in Beijing confirmed Humphrey had been arrested and they were providing consular assistance.