China said Friday it has charged a Canadian national with spying and stealing state secrets.
Kevin Garratt was arrested in August 2014, along with his wife, Julia, who was released after six months in custody although not allowed to leave China. Her husband was indicted in Dandong, a city in northeastern China where the couple operated a coffee shop and conducted Christian aid work for North Koreans.
"During the investigation, authorities found that Kevin Garratt may also be involved in gathering information for Canadian information agencies," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
A boy looks up as he walks past the closed coffee shop owned by Canadian couple Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt in Dandong, Liaoning province, August 5, 2014.
Garratt's parents said their son was arrested because of his religion, a contention Hua rejected.
"He was indicted because of spying and stealing Chinese state secrets," Hua said. "It has nothing to do with his religion."
Beijing's concept of state secrets can be very broad, while North Korea has often sharply punished Christian proselytizing activities.
Canada said it was concerned about the Garratt indictment and had raised the issue with the Chinese government "at high levels." A week ago, Canada accused Chinese hackers of breaking into a key computer network.
News of the indictment reached Ottawa a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior government officials attended a lavish party hosted by China in the Canadian capital to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.