Kevin Garratt, a Canadian missionary held in a Chinese jail for two years on suspicion of spying, arrived back in Canada on Thursday following a court ruling granting his release.
Garratt was arrested, along with his wife Julia (pictured above reuniting again), in August 2014 in Dandong, a city that borders North Korea. The Garratts had operated a Christian coffee shop in the city since 2008 and have been serving in China since 1984.
Julia was released in February 2015 but Kevin was later charged with stealing secrets and espionage for Canadian intelligence agencies and was kept in China.
Garratt’s release comes on the heels of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first official visit to China, during which a join press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed that Kevin would be treated humanely and in accordance to the law.
Kevin arrived at the Vancouver International Airport on Thursday and was greeted by his family (pictured above with his son).
Kevin was a missionary focused on sharing the Gospel with North Koreans – many of which made their way across the border to China. In 2014, their arrest was part of a general crackdown on missionaries in the area. Several missionaries that Back to Jerusalem worked with were kicked out and others, like Kevin and his wife, were detained and charged with spying.
Kevin and his family denied accusations of ever being involved in espionage.
At the end of last year, China released a new method of catching missionaries working with North Korea – they set up a hotline for citizens to call. Instead of announcing the new hotline to catch missionaries, they called the missionaries “spies.”
The new hotline was unveiled in the north east province of Jilin, where most missionaries who focus on North Korea work. During the Jilin International Security Conference that was held on November 1, 2015, the Chinese government announced that the new hotline would help stop spies and would be a follow up to the new anti-espionage law.
The new hotline targets missionaries by mobilizing the citizen forces to report anyone “who does not have a clear line of work, but seems to be well-funded, overseas correspondents, missionaries (including NGO workers), and people who participate in various seminars and business meetings that exaggerate the accomplishments of foreigners.”
If anyone is seen that matches this description, they can call the new hotline at 12339.
At BTJ we praise the Lord that Kevin has been released and we continue to pray for him and his family as they reconnect in Canada.