China Accuses Canadian Couple of ‘Stealing’ National Secrets, Starts Investigation

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | August 6, 2014 10:59 AM EST

Two Canadians, who have been living as expatriates in China for 30 years, are being investigated after having been accused of stealing state secrets related to the national defence research and the Chinese military. The Canadian couple has been identified as Kevin and Julia Garratt.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Part of the building of Unit 61398, a secretive Chinese military unit, is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai Feb. 19. The unit is believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks, a U.S. computer security company said, prompting a strong denial by China and accusations that it was in fact the victim of U.S. hacking. Reuters

The Garratt couple owns a café in the Dandong city, called "Peter's Coffee House." It is, however, unclear if the Canadians have been taken into custody for the investigation. The State Security Bureau of Dandong City is in charge of the investigation, as reported by the official news agency of the country - Xinhua. Ministry of Public Security officials in Dandong, on the other hand, said that they did not hear about the incident, when contacted by CNN. The couple started living in China in 1984. They opened the café named after one of their children in 2008.

The accusations against the Canadian couple came after Canada had blamed China for hacking its Research Council computer systems. The alleged cyber-attack on Canada was apparently sponsored by China. A professional hacker compromised with the computer security at the National Research Council in Canada. Corinne Charette, the chief information officer of Canada, said that it was a "highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" who did the job.

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing, in the meantime, said that it had come to know about the incident of the Canadians being investigated for stealing national secrets. It also said that consular officials would be ready to help if required. "We are gathering information and monitoring developments closely," a spokesperson said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed the report of the Garratt couple being investigated for allegedly stealing national secrets. It said on Tuesday that the couple did enough to have "harmed China's state security activities."

The Garratt couple has reportedly been known for their passion for humanitarian work. They were apparently interested in North Korea. That was why they started living near the North Korean border of China in the city of Dandong, said one of their sons in Vancouver.

Contact the writer: s.mukhopadhyay@IBTimes.com.au

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(Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria / )
Part of the building of Unit 61398, a secretive Chinese military unit, is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai Feb. 19. The unit is believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks, a U.S. computer security company said, prompting a strong denial by China and accusations that it was in fact the victim of U.S. hacking. Reuters
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