OTTAWA - The son of a Canadian man jailed in China on espionage charges is hoping Justin Trudeau's upcoming visit to the east Asian country will help his father's case — but Simeon Garratt is not getting his hopes up.
The prime minister has vowed to raise the case of Kevin and Julia Garratt, who were arrested in China just over two years ago. Julia was released on bail about six months later.
Kevin Garratt, Julia Dawn Garratt, Hannah Garratt and Simeon Garratt pose in this undated handout photo. (Photo: CP)
Their son Simeon told The Canadian Press he's hopeful Trudeau's first official visit to China next week will somehow move his father's all-but-stagnant case forward.
But he said he has no reason to believe anything significant will happen.
"We hope something actually happens — it's kind of just been going around in circles for quite a while," said Garratt, whose parents were arrested in August 2014.
"But I really have no reason above and beyond (that) to think that something drastic is going to happen."
PM says he has pressed matter
Trudeau will spend eight days in China to hold bilateral talks with Chinese leaders and to participate in the G20 leaders' summit.
In June, Trudeau said he raised Kevin Garratt's case during a meeting in Ottawa with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
"Every time I have had an opportunity to meet with any representatives of the Chinese government, or of China in general, I have highlighted our concerns around human rights and specifically brought up the case of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian citizen imprisoned for espionage without any evidence to support the allegations and accusations," Trudeau said at the time.
Simeon Garratt said he's grown frustrated with the situation, adding that his family has only been in touch with his father through consular officials.
He has denied his parents were involved in espionage.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 1, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
The Garratts lived in China for about 30 years, conducted Christian aid work and ran a popular coffee shop near China's border with North Korea.
In January, Garratt was indicted on accusations of spying for Canada and stealing Chinese state secrets.
A report by China's official news agency Xinhua said an investigation by Chinese authorities found evidence that implicated Garratt in accepting tasks from "Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China."
Since then, little has changed, Simeon Garratt said.
"Just extensions, extensions, extensions — that's all," he said. "There haven't been any movements on either side to be honest."
"We hope something actually happens — it's kind of just been going around in circles for quite a while."
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says the government is in contact with Chinese authorities and monitoring developments closely.
"Canadian consular officials are providing regular and active assistance to Kevin and Julia Garratt," Joseph Pickerill wrote in an email.
"In the interests of the family, we are not sharing further details at this time."
Former prime minister Stephen Harper also made a point of noting he personally raised the case with Chinese leaders.
In November 2014, three months after the Garratts' arrest, Harper brought up his concerns during a closed-door meeting in Beijing with Premier Li Keqiang, a spokesman for the then-prime minister said at the time.
Li later referenced the Garratts as he addressed reporters: "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."
— with files from Associated Press