China to Prosecute Canadian Cafe Owner on Espionage Charges

  • Christian who sought to help North Koreans held since 2014
  • Indictment follows expulsion of Swedish national this week

Chinese authorities will try a Canadian citizen and cafe owner on charges of spying and stealing state secrets after keeping him in detention for more than a year.

Kevin Garratt was indicted by prosecutors in Dandong city in Liaoning province, on the North Korean border, the official Xinhua News Agency said. During their investigation, Chinese authorities found evidence that implicated Garratt in accepting tasks from Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China, Xinhua said.

Garratt and Julia Garratt, who together ran Peter’s Coffee House, were placed under investigation in August 2014, when state media said they were suspected of stealing secrets about China’s military and national defense research. Julia Garratt was released on bail last February, according the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based attorney for the Garratt family, said he would wait until receiving official court documents before commenting on the report.

China has been cracking down on foreigners and rights activists it suspects of jeopardizing national security. Peter Jesper Dahlin, a Swedish national was expelled Tuesday, after he was detained and confessed on state television to illegal activities that hurt the Chinese government. 

Indictment ‘Concerning’

“Canada finds the indictment of Kevin Garratt by China concerning,” John Babcock, a spokesman for Canada’s global affairs department said by e-mail. “The government of Canada has raised this case with the Chinese government at high levels.”

Kevin Garratt -- an active Christian operating in a country suspicious of foreign missionaries -- said in 2013 sermon in Canada that God had told the couple to go to Dandong, where they focused on helping the local North Korean population. They moved to China in 1984, according to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper.

“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. He 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 provide humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea, according to its website.

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