Saturday 24 March 2018

China frees Canadian 'spy' on bail

Beijing detained the couple amid a crackdown on Christian groups aiding North Korean refugees
Beijing detained the couple amid a crackdown on Christian groups aiding North Korean refugees

A Canadian woman detained in China along with her husband on suspicion of stealing state secrets has been released on bail.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Julia Garratt was set free in China while the case remains under investigation.

She and her husband Kevin were detained on August 4 by the state security bureau in China's north-eastern city of Dandong, which borders North Korea.

Their detentions came amid a crackdown on Christian groups aiding North Korean refugees along the border.

Mr Hong said both have been charged with stealing secrets and spying and Kevin Garratt has been moved from residential surveillance to the more serious status of criminal detention.

"Kevin Garratt and Julia Garratt are under suspicion of undermining China's state security," he said.

"Competent Chinese authorities will handle the case and ensure the legal rights of the two persons according to law."

The Garratts, from Vancouver, moved to China in 1984 and since 2008 ran a popular coffee shop in Dandong and conducted Christian aid work for North Koreans. They are in their mid-fifties.

Canadian spokesman John Babcock said his government welcomed Julia Garratt's release, but remained highly concerned about Kevin Garratt's condition.

He said: "We have raised the case at the highest levels and will continue to raise it with senior Chinese officials. Consular officials have had regular access to the Garratts and will continue to push for regular access to provide consular support."

Shortly after they were detained, one of their sons, Simeon Garratt, said he knew of "no possible scenario I can think of that makes it plausible" that his parents would be stealing state secrets about military and national defence research.

The couple worked with North Star Aid, whose website said the British Columbia-registered charity seeks to help North Koreans primarily through providing humanitarian aid.

Simeon Garratt said his parents made no secret of their faith but did not flaunt it in China, where proselytising is against the law.

The accusations against the couple last August came a week after Canada accused a China-sponsored hacker of infiltrating Canada's National Research Council, the country's major research and development organisation.

China's foreign ministry expressed strong displeasure over the allegation.

Press Association

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