The Canadian government has threatened to have its prime minister back out of a high-profile meeting with Chinese leadership if Beijing does not release a Canadian couple, Kevin and Julia Garratt, seized by Chinese authorities near the border of China and North Korea in August.
This is despite the fact that applying heavy pressure on China is raising warnings that Canada could pay an economic price for angering a country that does not look kindly on foreign interference in its affairs. The stakes are “huge” if Canada picks a fight with China, said Victor Gao, a director at the China National Association of International Studies.
The Garratts are Christian evangelicals from British Columbia who ran a coffee shop in the Chinese city of Dandong on the North Korean border. The couple, who first came to China 30 years ago, were taken away Aug. 4 by agents of China’s Ministry of State Security. They have not been formally charged or arrested.
Ottawa has made clear that if the couple is not released, it will decline an invitation to a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese leadership in Beijing around the time of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in early November.
Canadian government officials have let it be known they see the couple’s detention as a kind of reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada accused of masterminding efforts to steal U.S. military secrets.
[The Globe and Mail]