The Chinese government has just announced the release of Julia Garratt from custody.
She and her husband Kevin Garratt were arrested by Chinese authorities on August 4, 2014 and charged with espionage. I discussed this in detail in an earlier post.
People who knew the Garratts were dumbfounded by the accusation. Most believe it was no coincidence the Chinese government arrested the Garratts days after the Canadian government accused the Chinese of hacking into a government agency — the National Research Council of Canada — to steal vital economic and technological data.
Though the Chinese government denied the hacking and the arrest of the Garratts as retaliation, there are regular media reports of Chinese hacking government and business computers in other countries.
According to the National Post, despite her release, Julia is still under investigation. Kevin’s status was changed from “residential surveillance” to “criminal detention,” an upgrade in the seriousness of the charge.
In 2008, Kevin and Julia opened a coffee shop in Dandong on the border of China and North Korea. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, they have been in China since 1984. Aside from their successful business, the couple were involved in a humanitarian ministry to people living in North Korea.
They were also Pentecostal pastors and had weekly meetings in their home. However, they were careful not to use their coffee shop as an evangelistic outreach. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, the couple had also set up a centre to train North Koreans for ministry in their country.
Being foreigners in China, there is no doubt government authorities were aware of their religious work and some wonder if it contributed to them being chosen for the Chinese government’s retaliatory move.
- China releases Canadian woman held over spying suspicions but husband remains in custody: National Post