The official Xinhua news agency identified the two as Kevin
Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt. In a brief report, Xinhua said the
State Security Bureau of Dandong city in northeast Liaoning province
was investigating the case, adding it involved the stealing of state
Neither the Foreign Ministry nor Xinhua said if the couple had been
detained, although the ministry said the Canadian embassy in Beijing
was notified on Monday and that the couple's "various rights have
been fully guaranteed".
Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail said the Vancouver couple had
been living in China since 1984 and opened a coffee shop called
Peter's Coffee House in Dandong, a key gateway to reclusive North
Korea, in 2008. The couple previously worked as teachers in southern
It said the whereabouts of the Garratts was unknown. Calls by
Reuters to the coffee shop went unanswered. A family friend said the
Garratts had three children.
"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.
The Canadian embassy said it was aware of reports that two Canadians
had been "detained" in China and was gathering information on the
The investigation into the Garratts comes a week after Canada took
the unusual step of singling out Chinese hackers for attacking a key
computer network and lodged a protest with Beijing. Canadian
officials have said "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored
actor" broke into the National Research Council, the government's
leading research body, which works with big firms such as aircraft
and train maker Bombardier Inc.. In response, Beijing accused Canada
of making irresponsible accusations that lacked credible evidence.
"SEE YOU SOON!"
China's state secrets law is notoriously broad, covering everything
from industry data to the exact birth dates of state leaders.
Information can also be labelled a state secret retroactively. In
severe cases, the theft of state secrets is punishable with life in
prison or the death penalty.
One of the Garratts' sons told the Hong Kong-based South China
Morning Post newspaper that he didn't believe the accusations.
"It sounds so wildly absurd," said 27-year-old Simeon Garratt, who
lives in British Columbia. "I know for a fact it's not true."
He said he last spoke with his parents on Monday.
The Garratts' western-style restaurant, which bears a sign touting
french toast and hot dogs, has a view of traffic flowing across the
Yalu River that divides China and North Korea.
Shades covered the windows when a reporter visited on Tuesday, and
the entrance was shut up. A chalkboard sign in a window read in
English: "SORRY, WE ARE CLOSED".
"See you soon!" it added, with a smiley face underneath.
The couple also had a side business helping intrepid travellers plan
tours to North Korea, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
"It was open during the day (on Monday), and the police came during
the evening," a woman working in a seafood restaurant next door to
the cafe said.
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Beijing is very sensitive about its relationship with North Korea,
which has been hit with sanctions by the United Nations several
times over its banned nuclear and missile programmes and whose
ruined economy is kept afloat with Chinese aid.
Dandong is a stopover for North Korean traders and officials
travelling between North Korea and northeast China. It is also a
magnet for foreign reporters seeking information on one of the most
isolated countries in the world. The city is home to an air force
base, according to Chinese military blogs.
The cafe is only three
blocks from the Friendship Bridge that spans the Yalu River, and its
website calls the venue the "perfect stop off while enroute to or
returning from the Hermit Kingdom".
A large police station is located two doors down, and a sign posted
near the river warns passers by not to photograph or film military
The shop also runs a weekly "English Corner" conversation club,
where Chinese can practice speaking English. A map of the world
posted on a wall inside the shop bore the words "where are you
from?" with bright pushpins at different locations.
The Globe and Mail said the shop was named after the couple's
youngest son, Peter. The couple had three children, said David
Etter, an American who knew the family and had run a restaurant in
another city bordering North Korea. He told Reuters the Garratts had
lived in Dandong for at least six years.
Canada's right-leaning conservative government has had an uneven
relationship with Beijing since taking power in 2006.
"It's completely unprecedented. We haven't had this sort of thing
(before)," Charles Burton, a Brock University professor who served
as a diplomat at Canada's embassy in Beijing in the early 2000s, was
quoted by The Globe and Mail as saying.
Citing human rights concerns, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
initially kept his distance from China. Under pressure from business
in Canada, he sought to reach out to Beijing.
China is Canada's second most important trading partner after the
United States, and bilateral trade is growing. Total Canada-China
trade was C$69.8 billion in 2012 and $72.9 billion in 2013,
according to official Canadian data.
In July, Chinese prosecutors charged British corporate investigator
Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng for illegally
obtaining private information. The couple were detained last year
following work they did for the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline
Plc (GSK) and their trial is set for Aug. 8 in Shanghai.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Megha Rajagopalan and Li
Hui in BEIJING and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Dean Yates and
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