China Makes Tit-for-Tat ‘Spy’ Accusation of Canadian Citizen
China Makes Tit-for-Tat ‘Spy’ Accusation of Canadian Citizen
Accusation may also be related to conviction of Chinese citizen for spying in the US

The Chinese regime is accusing a Canadian, Kevin Garratt, of spying and stealing state secrets. According to Chinese state-run news outlet Xinhua, authorities announced on Jan. 28 that Garratt will stand trial in Dandong City in northeast China’s Liaoning Province.

It appears the Chinese regime is using the case to lessen international pressure about its own use of espionage.

When he and his wife, Julie Garratt—who was released on bail last year—were arrested in Dandong in August 2014, it was widely reported that the arrests were a tit-for-tat move related to espionage.

Just one week before Garratt and his wife were arrested, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the Chinese regime for supporting cyberspies who had hacked Canadian government computers and stolen information.

“Chinese authorities could be targeting them to send a message to Ottawa,” Vice News reported at the time, noting it was both the first time Canada had accused the Chinese regime of cyberespionage and the first time the Chinese regime had accused a Canadian citizen of stealing state secrets.

Just a day prior to Garratt’s indictment on Jan. 27, a spy case involving a Chinese national made headlines in the United States, which may be related to the indictment’s timing.

Mo Hailong pled guilty in an Iowa court to long-term conspiracy to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

The case of Mo Hailong is significant. While stories about Chinese espionage are common, it’s rare that a Chinese national pleads guilty in a U.S. court for stealing trade secrets.

Chinese authorities have a track record of using spy accusations as a political tool.

In September and October 2015, Chinese authorities arrested four Japanese nationals. Japan denied the accusations—noting that one of the men had merely taken photos of Chinese military aircraft and airfields.

There was broad speculation at the time that the Chinese regime made the arrests in retaliation, after Japan made allegations about Chinese spies operating in Tokyo.

There have been similar cases of a tit-for-tat response over military and business issues. In August 2014, the Chinese regime declared Australia a military threat to its national security, after Australia finalized a 25-year military pact with the United States.

After the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice charged five Chinese military officers for cyberespionage in May 2014, the Chinese regime also responded by lashing out at U.S. technology companies—including Microsoft and IBM—which it accused of spying.

In this latest case, it’s likely the Chinese regime is using Garratt to lessen the bad press about its use of espionage, by supporting its frequently used excuse when facing spy accusations that China is also a victim of espionage.

While Mo Hailong is facing at most five years in prison, however, Garratt is facing the death sentence.

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