A Canadian couple, Kevin and Julie Garratt, who run a coffee shop in Dandong on the China-DPRK border have been detained for ‘stealing trade secrets,’ USA Today reports. If they are indeed guilty, the pair probably should’ve considered a less conspicuous cover than being the only Canadian-Christian coffee shop owners within a hundred miles, situated on the North Korean border. Just saying….
According to a statement by China’s Foreign ministry, “The pair are suspected of collecting and stealing intelligence materials related to Chinese military targets and defense research programs and engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security.”
Unfortunately, the definition of “espionage” is quite vague, leading many to believe that they are simply the unfortunate victims of the Canada-China spat that intensified last week when the Canadian government accused China of hacking into their top research and development organization.
Others speculate that the couple’s activism in North Korea could’ve sparked the allegations, especially considering the rocky Sino-DPRK relationship. USA today reports:
Simeon Garratt told AFP his parents were “openly Christian” and had sent goods, including oil and cooking supplies, to North Korea to “help basically what they feel is a group of people that have been severely neglected.”
In an audio file posted on the website of the Terra Nova church in Surrey, British Columbia, Kevin Garratt told the congregation last November that God told them to go to Dandong and open a coffee house, AFP reported. “We serve the best coffee on the border… and we do some other things too,” he said. “We’re trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus and practical assistance.”
So far it appears their biggest crime is cliche religious ‘cornballism.’
If convicted of espionage the pair could face up to life imprisonment and even the death penalty. Currently the whereabouts of the Garratts are unknown, and calls by Reuters to their coffee shop have gone unanswered. The Canadian embassy in Beijing has also been unreachable at this time.
Canada and China have had a tumultuous relationship ever since the Great White North was taken over by a right-leaning conservative government in 2006.
The last major instance of Canada-China espionage involved a Chinese naval engineer stealing ship-building secrets from the former.