Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese authorities are investigating two Canadian nationals for suspected theft of state secrets about the country’s military and national defense research, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Kevin Garratt and Julia Garratt are under investigation by the State Security Bureau of Dandong City, which borders North Korea, the state news agency said late yesterday. Kevin Garratt is also an active Christian in a country suspicious of foreign missionaries.
In a sermon delivered last year in Canada, Kevin Garratt said that God had told them to go to Dandong, where their focus was to help North Koreans. The couple ran Peter’s Coffee House, which its website says attracts many foreigners. The couple moved to China in 1984, according to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper.
Peter’s Coffee House lies on the waterfront of Dandong near the Friendship Bridge, where trucks involved in trade with North Korea cross over the Yalu river. Its website describes it as “the perfect stop off while en route to or returning from the Hermit Kingdom.”
The accusations against the Garratts were unexpected, Simeon Garratt, one of the couple’s sons, said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. from Vancouver.
“They’ve pretty much dedicated their lives to helping the Chinese people,” he said. “They’ve started orphanages, kindergartens and translation companies -- a number of different businesses inside China with the whole goal basically being to help the Chinese people.”
Simeon Garratt didn’t immediately return a call from Bloomberg for comment.
Two calls to the cafe in Dandong went unanswered today. Canadian consular officials are providing assistance to the two, and the nation’s foreign-affairs department is in contact with the Chinese government, John Babcock, a spokesman for the department, said in an e-mail today.
“We’re China based, North-Korea focused, but we’re Jesus centered,” Kevin Garratt said in the November 2013 sermon at the Terra Nova Church in Surrey, British Columbia.
In a recording of the sermon, Garratt described running a house outside Dandong where North Koreans could “hang out.” Garratt said he used an organization called North Star Aid, which seeks to serve the people of North Korea by providing humanitarian aid, according to its website.
“God gave us a vision a number of years ago, and that vision was to go to a little place called Dandong, a little city of 800,000 people on the border of China and North Korea,” Garratt said. ‘And God said start a business, start a coffee house,’’ he said.
China’s ruling Communist Party has long been wary of foreign missionaries, expelling them when it came to power in 1949. Today, they are forbidden from proselytizing. North Korea has also jailed foreigners involved in trying to spread Christianity, including Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide and missionary who was arrested in November 2012.
The accusations against the Garratts come after Canada last month accused China of carrying out a state-sponsored cyber-attack on the National Research Council, a federal agency that does investigations into areas such as communications and aerospace. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa called the accusations groundless.
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