Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - Page 4 News List

China espionage inquiry ‘mind-boggling’: son


Kevin Garratt, second right, his wife, Julia Dawn Garatt, second left, and children Peter and Hannah pose in Dandong, China, in an undated handout provided by Kevin’s son Simeon Garatt.

Photo: Reuters

The son of a Canadian couple arrested in China on suspicion of stealing state secrets about military and national defense research said on Friday the situation is “mind-boggling.”

Kevin Garratt, 54, and Julia Dawn Garratt, 53, are being investigated by the state security bureau in China’s northeastern city of Dandong, which borders North Korea, according to Xinhua news agency.

Son Simeon Garratt, 27, said his parents ran a coffee shop and did Christian aid work for North Koreans. He said there must have been a mistake and hopes his parents will be released.

“It really is bizarre,” he said in a telephone interview in Vancouver. “There’s no possible scenario I can think of that makes it plausible.”

The accusations against the couple were reported on Monday last week, almost a week after Canada accused a China-sponsored hacker of infiltrating Canada’s National Research Council, a top research and development organization. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed strong displeasure over the allegation, urging Canada to withdraw the “groundless” accusation.

Canadian consular officials were able to secure a meeting with the Garratts on Wednesday, meeting separately with each of them for 30 minutes, their son said.

“We are in contact with local Chinese authorities and the family and are monitoring developments closely,” Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman John Babcock said.

Simeon Garratt said his parents were at a restaurant on Monday when police detained them.

“They’ve been separated ever since,” he said. “My dad is probably freaking out, wondering if my mom is OK, and she’s probably doing the same.”

He said his mother reported that their conditions were fine.

He believes his parents are being held in nongovernmental compounds in Dandong.

Simeon Garratt said legal documents, computer equipment, telephones, an electric piano, money and two safes have been taken from the couple’s home and coffee shop, located just a few hundred meters from the North Korean border.

He said his brother, Peter, is in China studying languages on a Chinese scholarship and has received brief ntoes from their parents.

He said his parents’ experience with China and its government would help them in this situation.

“They know how the Chinese government works. They’re not scared for their lives or anything like that,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”

The couple had worked with North Star Aid, whose Web site said the British Columbia-registered charity seeks to help North Koreans primarily through providing humanitarian aid.

Simeon Garratt said his parents made no secret of their faith, but did not flaunt it in China, where proselytizing is against the law.

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