Evangelicals celebrate release of detained Christian missionary Kevin Garrett

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has thanked Justin Trudeau after he secured the release from China of Canadian missionary Kevin Garrett.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Beijing.Reuters

After two years in detention on suspicion of espionage, Garrett was released last week, shortly after Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau made his first official visit to China. Along with his wife Julia, Garrett was arrested in 2014 in Dandong, a city on the border with North Korea.

The couple had run a Christian coffee shop there since 2008 and have lived in China for 30 years providing humanitarian aid. Although Julia was released on bail in February 2015, Kevin was held in detention after a Xinhua report claimed there was evidence he had accepted tasks from "Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China".

His son Simeon denied either of his parents had been involved in spying.

Garrett arrived back at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday and was greeted by his family.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, praised Trudeau and government departments that had "assiduously worked together" to secure the release.

"We are grateful for your persistence in securing Mr. Garratt's freedom, and your defence of the core Canadian principle of freedom of religion," he said in a letter on Tuesday.

He added he was proud of the Garrett's "dedication, humanitarian compassion and uncommon sacrifice on foreign soil. As Christians, we are inspired by their steadfast dedication to their faith under such difficult circumstances."

James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based lawyer who acted for the Garretts, also thanked Trudeau's government.

"The family appreciates the strong, persistent efforts of the Canadian government to secure Kevin's release," Zimmerman said.

In a statement the Garrett family thanked those involved in the release and everyone for their thoughts and prayers. They also asked for "respect for their privacy in this time of transition."