Canadian Man in China Charged With Stealing State Secrets

January 28, 2016 Updated: January 28, 2016

A Canadian arrested in China two years ago on suspicion of spying has been charged.

Prosecutors in Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea in the province of Liaoning in northeastern China, indicted Kevin Garratt for stealing China’s state secrets, according to a report on state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua claims that the Chinese regime found evidence that Garratt was gathering intelligence in China on behalf of Canadian espionage agencies without commenting further.

Garratt is the second foreigner this month to face some form of prosecution by the Chinese communist regime. The first, Swedish rights activist Peter Dahlin, was arrested on Jan. 3 and deported on Jan. 26 after making a Cultural Revolution-style confession that was broadcasted by Chinese state media.

Originally from Vancouver, Kevin Garratt and his wife moved to China 30 years ago. Their son, Simeon Garratt, told the Associated Press that his parents were owners of a coffee shop in China, and did Christian aid work for North Koreans until their arrest in August 2014 by Chinese state security.

Julia Garratt, the wife of Kevin Garratt, was released on bail in February 2015. The couple’s lawyer said she was barred from leaving mainland China for a year and her husband was shifted to a more formal detention center at an undisclosed location, according to Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post. Simeon Garratt believes that his parents’ arrest and detention must have been a mistake.

The case of the Garratts is rather unusual since foreign citizens in China have rarely been accused of spying in the post-Mao era. The charge of stealing state secrets is more commonly levelled against regime’s political opponents, such as outspoken Chinese rights activists, journalists, or Party cadres targeted for purge.

Those indicted of stealing state secrets have little chance of overturning their case because state secrets in China are so loosely defined as to allow Party authorities enormous latitude in defining them in any particular case. Also, senior Party officials and top judges often predetermine the outcome of court cases in China regardless of the law or evidence presented, particularly if the cases are politically sensitive.

The Garratts’ plight is seen as an act of retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese citizen Su Bin for his alleged role in espionage, according to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.