Canadian detained in China for 2 years urges caution on trade talks – Politics

A man detained in China for almost two years is warning Canada to approach any possible trade deal between the two countries with “an abundance of caution.”

After living in China for 30 years without incident, Kevin and Julia Garratt were arrested by Chinese security officials in 2014 and accused of spying and stealing military secrets, a charge Kevin Garratt said left the couple “dumbfounded.”

Julia was released in February, 2015 and returned to Canada, while Kevin was not released until September, 2016.

Now living in Canada, the couple spoke about their experience Wednesday in an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues his tour of China to help lay the groundwork for a possible trade deal with Beijing.

“I would advise an abundance of caution, take our time in terms of free trade or whatever Canada wants to do with China,” Kevin Garratt told guest host Catherine Cullen. “I think China is an amazing place, we loved it, and still do, but you need to take time to know what you are getting into.”

‘I would advise an abundance of caution’10:34

Julia Garratt said building a trusting relationship with China requires not just Canada to trust China, but for China to trust Canada. After three decades living and working in the country, she said she thought she had that trust — but it all came crashing down one day in August, 2014.

“I think it’s a much more complex thing than should we trust China or not trust China? And I think that it just deserves some very deep consideration,” she said.

Should Trudeau proceed with his efforts to forge a tighter bond with China, Julia Garratt said Canada should ensure it educates Canadians working in that country about what could happen to them if they run afoul of the law.

“If you do cross a boundary in China, or China decides to arrest you for some reason, what actually does it look like? What is the recourse and what could possibly happen?” she said. “We never realized that we could be held for two years in this capacity.”

Arrested after dinner

The Garratts, who are from Vancouver and had lived in China since 1984, ran a popular coffee shop in the city of Dandong, near China’s sensitive border with North Korea, and carried out Christian aid work in the area.

In 2014, the Garratts were out to dinner with another couple who were seeking the Canadians’ advice about sending their child to…

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