By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission
Can’t say that Stephen Harper doesn’t know the value of a dollar.
Over the past few days he has been In China, finalizing trade agreements with the government of China worth $2.5 billion. As he did, Canadians Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt are still in Chinese prisons.
The couple, as the Wall Street Journal reported in August after their arrest, ”are under investigation for suspected theft of state secrets about China’s military and national defense research,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said at the time. It added that the couple’s actions had “harmed China’s state security activities.”
Today, as I write, was the day that the Church worldwide prays for persecuted Christians around the world. So my church prayed for them, as my pastor knows them. From what he said today, they were trying to be a good witness and doing a little lay ministry when opportunity allowed
They have lived in China since 1984, most recently operating a coffee shop in the city of Dandong on China’s border with North Korea.
Their son Simeon, from what I understand, is in China now, trying to use Harper’s visit to help the situation.
Not that Harper was much of a help. Cap in hand, in my view, he signed on the dotted line.
Canadian Press has reported that there was little visible movement in helping the duo.
The prime minister raised his concerns about the three-month imprisonment of Kevin and Julia Garratt with Premier Li Keqiang during a closed-door meeting at the ornate Great Hall of the People, a spokesman for Harper said.
Harper didn’t reiterate those concerns publicly when Li, the second most powerful man in China, was asked about the fate of the Garratts during a post-meeting news conference.
“We have discussed a full range of issues in our bilateral relationship in a frank, open and friendly manner,” Harper said in remarks to the media.
Li, meantime, said they “talked about the rule of law and human rights.”
As for the Garratts, the premier added: “As for individual cases, I want to reiterate that as China continues to build a country under the rule of law, I believe that judicial authorities should be able to handle cases in accordance with the law.”
This is odd.
If China doesn’t want foreigners near its borders, why doesn’t it ban foreign nationals from Manchuria?
Or do China’s leaders hope that foreigners will get a message and voluntarily leave, hoping not to be imprisoned on a trumped up excuse, if this is the case.
Perhaps someone in our foreign affairs ministry could have said to the Chinese. “If you thinks they are “spies”, which is fatuous, why not just deport them and not let them back in?”
I would have liked Harper to refuse to sign the agreement until the pair were let go.
But that is probably my disgust with his lack of action talking.