China accuses Canadian of spying and stealing secrets

Garratt and his wife Julia Dawn with their children Peter and Hannah in Dandong, in this undated handout provided to Reuters by son Simeon. The couple were detained by the police more than a year ago.
Garratt and his wife Julia Dawn with their children Peter and Hannah in Dandong, in this undated handout provided to Reuters by son Simeon. The couple were detained by the police more than a year ago. PHOTO: REUTERS

No trial date yet for cafe owner, who helped a charity that fed North Koreans

BEIJING • A Canadian who ran a cafe near China's border with North Korea will be tried on charges of spying and stealing state secrets, prosecutors announced yesterday, nearly a year and a half after the man and his wife were detained by the police.

Kevin Garratt will be tried in Dandong, a city in Liaoning province, Xinhua, the official news agency, said. It did not say when the trial will take place.

"During investigation, the Chinese authorities found evidence that implicates Garratt in accepting tasks from Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China," said Xinhua, citing prosecutors in Dandong.

The case is another potential source of tension between Beijing and Western governments, which have expressed concern about the treatment of foreigners in China's legal system.

The indictment was announced a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior Cabinet ministers attended a lavish party in Ottawa hosted by China to mark the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

A Swedish man, Peter Jesper Dahlin, was expelled from China this week after he had been detained on charges of violating national security laws by supporting human rights advocates.

Garratt and his wife, Julia Dawn Garratt, ran Peter's Coffee House in Dandong, near the Yalu River, a dividing line between China and North Korea. The couple, from Vancouver, British Columbia, worked with North Star Aid, a charity that delivered food to North Koreans.

The Garratts were detained in August 2014. Their son, Mr Simeon Garratt, has called the spying allegations "absurd". Mrs Garratt was released on bail in February when her husband was formally detained on the charge of stealing state secrets but was ordered to remain in China for one year.

Canada said it was concerned and monitoring the developments closely. "Canada finds the indictment of Kevin Garratt by China concerning," said foreign ministry spokesman Francois Lasalle.

"The government of Canada has raised this case with the Chinese government at high levels... We remain in contact with Chinese authorities and the family, and are monitoring developments closely."

Brock University professor Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat who served two tours in China, said the indictment could signal the start of a process to expel the couple.

Mr James Zimmerman, a lawyer in Beijing who has represented the couple, had no immediate comment.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'China accuses Canadian of spying and stealing secrets'. Print Edition | Subscribe