Canadian arrested in China on charges of stealing state secrets

Kevin Garratt and wife Julia run coffee shop near border crossing with North Korea

Christian activists Julia and Kevin Garratt: the couple from Vancouver have lived in China since 1984 and opened their coffee shop in Dandong in 2008. Photograph: Simeon Garratt/AFP/Getty

Christian activists Julia and Kevin Garratt: the couple from Vancouver have lived in China since 1984 and opened their coffee shop in Dandong in 2008. Photograph: Simeon Garratt/AFP/Getty

 
China

yesterday.

Kevin and Julia Garratt, who ran a coffee shop in the city of Dandong near the border crossing between China and North Korea, were put under residential surveillance by the State Security Bureau of Dandong in August on suspicion of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

At the time, state media said the couple were suspected of stealing secrets about defence and the military. Many North Korean refugees find their way out through the city and some are helped by Christian groups; the Garratts are believed to be active Christians. “The authorities are dealing with the case in accordance with the law, and legal rights and interests of Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia Dawn Garratt have been maintained,” Mr Hong said.

North Korea and China are ideological allies and aid from China is said to help to keep the government of Kim Jong-un in power. It is also a sensitive military region and has been a channel for Christian activists trying to access the secretive North.

The couple from Vancouver have lived in China since 1984 and opened their coffee shop in Dandong in 2008. They named the coffee house after their youngest son, Peter (21) who lives in Dandong, while another son, Simeon Garratt, returned to Canada several years ago.

The crime of stealing state secrets is a vague and wide-ranging one in China, often used as a way of punishing political dissidents. The charge carries harsh penalties, ranging from 10 years in prison to the death penalty.

The couple’s lawyer James Zimmerman issued a statement calling on “the Chinese government to ensure that this matter is handled with transparency and due process as required by Chinese law and fundamental international standards”.