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China investigating two Canadians for allegedly stealing state secrets

A Canadian couple who have lived in China for 30 years are under investigation for allegedly stealing state secrets about China's military and national defense research, state media said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said in a one-paragraph report late Monday that Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt were being investigated by the state security bureau in China's northeastern city of Dandong that borders North Korea. Xinhua did not provide further details. The offense of stealing state secrets is a serious crime in China, and one that foreigners are rarely charged with. 

The Globe and Mail reported that the Garratts, originally from Vancouver, had operated a coffee house in Dandong since 2008. They had previously worked as teachers in southern China before moving to the city of 780,000 people. 

The accusations against the couple came nearly a week after Canada accused a China-sponsored hacker of infiltrating Canada's National Research Council, the country's top research and development organization.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed strong displeasure over the allegation, urging Canada to withdraw the "groundless" accusation.

The Globe and Mail reported that the Garratts' establishment, Peter's Coffee House, was popular among Chinese as the only place in Dandong to buy Western meals. The paper also claimed that the couple had a side business helping travelers plan trips to North Korea. 

Canada's foreign affairs department said it was aware of reports that the two Canadians had been detained and was trying get more information. The department said consular officials were ready to provide assistance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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