Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Canadian released from Chinese jail and deported to Canada

Kevin Garratt, a Canadian held in jail in China on allegations that he was a spy was deported to Canada on Thursday after being convicted on Tuesday of spying and stealing state secrets. Kevin was reunited with his wife Julia at Vancouver airport.

Justin Trudeau, Canadian PM said that there was "tremendous potential" for stronger and more stable ties with China. The deportation of Garratt was no doubt a diplomatic coup for Trudeau. Trudeau had visited China earlier this month and Chinese Premier Li Kegiang is to arrive in Canada next week. According to the Globe and Mail a government source claimed that Trudeau had made it clear in several meetings with top Chinese officials that a better relationship with Canada would be difficult to reach unless Garratt were released. The source said that when Trudeau's first official visit to China was over the release of Garratt was virtually assured.
In an unusual step, Trudeau had Michel Columbo, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) sent to China four months ago to meet with his Chinese counterpart in order to attest that Garratt was not a spy for Canada. Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, and ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques made concerted attempts to obtain the release of Garratt. Former PM Stephen Harper also worked on behalf of Garratt in 2014.
Trudeau was asked if Canada was open to more investment from China, which is seeking a free trade deal with Canada. China is not part of the large Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal whereas Canada is. Trudeau said that there was scope for closer ties.
Foreign Affairs minister Stephan Dion said on Friday that Canada made no concessions to obtain Garratt's release.
Mr. Garratt is a Pentecostal pastor who came to China in 1984. After his conviction, Garratt was deported almost immediately rather than sent to jail. He flew from Shenyang China, to Tokyo and then on to Vancouver. His wife Julia had also been arrested but was released on bail in February and allowed to return to Canada. James Zimmerman Garratt's lawyer and a Canadian embassy official escorted Garratt back to Vancouver.
Roland Paris a former top foreign-policy adviser for Trudeau before stepping-down and taking a job as a professor of international affairs at the University of Paris claimed that Justin was much like his father in that he was tough and persistent. Paris said: “Not just in respect to dealing with China, but I have found him in meetings with foreign leaders to be extremely effective. Because he was able to communicate, to be clear in his own mind what he wanted to accomplish.” Paris said that Trudeau's trip to China had been “an important and successful first step in establishing a more consistent and constructive and sustained relationship with China.”
Critics points out, however, that there are still many activists, lawyers, and writers behind bars in China. This includes Canadian Huseyin Celil and Wang Bingzhang whose children live in Canada. John Higginbotham, a former Canadian Commissioner to Hong Kong from 1989 to 1995 called the situation a "Chinese Opera" whereby Canada can claim successes that don't amount to much but which strengthens the hand of China. Higginbotham said: “It’s obviously a very political gesture by the Chinese to give face to Mr. Trudeau, and hope that that will generate further benefits to China.”