Free at Last!
Three years ago this weekend Kevin Garratt stepped off the plane in Vancouver as a free man. He and his wife Julia had been in China for about 30 years: teaching English, operating a coffee shop near the border with North Korea, channeling aid to needy people in North Korea and generally befriending Chinese people in a fulfilling and beneficial way. Then they were seized by government officials as they left a dinner in a hotel. Husband and wife were separated, imprisoned and charged with spying. Their coffee shop was closed down, their aid efforts stopped, their apartment ransacked and their personal belongings searched. Even a photograph of visiting friends, with a bridge over the river to North Korea in the background, was cited as evidence of spying when in fact it was the frequent object of tourist photos.
It was deemed by many to be a retaliatory act due to claims by Canada that Chinese authorities had hacked into computer systems of Canadian institutions.
Frequent 6 hour interrogations, demands to sign confessions, inhumane deprivations and torturous means were used to extract ‘information’. After several months Julia was released but not allowed to leave the area. Canadian Embassy efforts were having minimal effect. Kevin was detained more than 2 years before a trial took place where he was sentenced to a total of 8 years in prison, then deportation. But private negotiations succeeded in granting deportation right away. It appears the trial and sentencing, then deportation before serving prison time, was intended to make it look like China’s government was being kind on humanitarian grounds.
The Garratts emphasize that by far their experiences in China were positive for 30 years. They made many wonderful friends there. Currently they are residing in Vancouver but have said they would go back if allowed.
Source: “Two Tears on the Window” by Kevin and Julia Garratt, 2018
It takes a lot to maintain a good attitude during such mistreatment.