Friday, 16 September 2016

Vancouverite Finally Free

Kevin Garratt hugging his wife Julia in Vancouver
We were relieved this morning to read the news that Vancouverite Kevin Garratt was released after spending two years in a Chinese jail on suspicion of spying.

The move comes soon after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Beijing earlier this month and raised the Garratt case with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a week before Prime Minister Li Keqiang comes to Canada next week.

Earlier this week Garratt was formally sentenced and then released on bail. According to his family, he was deported from China yesterday and was back in Canada.

Garratt in front of the coffee shop at Dandong
In August 2014, Garratt and his wife Julia were detained in Dandong, a city near the Chinese border with North Korea where the couple had a cafe called Peter's Coffee Shop which they operated as part of a Christian aid mission.

Chinese officials later said they were being held on "suspicion of stealing and spying to obtain state secrets".

"Kevin Garratt and his wife... are suspected of collecting and stealing intelligence materials related to Chinese military targets and important Chinese national defence scientific research programs, and engaging in activities that endanger China's national security," the Foreign Ministry said in a short statement at the time.

Their son Simeon said in Vancouver at the time that the charges "sound ridiculous". "Military secrets? It sounds like something out of a movie or something. Those are the accusations, but I have no idea where they are coming from or how it even came about."

Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Xi Jinping earlier this month
There were also concerns that China's relationship with then Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn't good, which made Garratt's situation harder to bring up and resolve.

Soon Julia Garratt was released on bail and allowed to leave China, but in January Chinese authorities announced Garratt would be tried on the charges. And now he's finally free.

He had originally said that God had told them to go to Dandong to spread Christianity into North Korea.

But after this two-year long wait and finally returning back to Canada, what's Garratt's next move?

Nevertheless, his release demonstrates Trudeau's ability to sway the Chinese, and scores the respect of Canadians for finally successfully dealing with this case which has been left idle for some time.

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