Canadian lab that handles world’s deadliest viruses tightens security after investigation finds researchers with connections to the Chinese government and military gained access and MAILED live Ebola virus to Wuhan

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A Chinese couple working at Canada’s highest biosecurity lab were secretly sending information to Beijing and mailed live Ebola to China, a bombshell investigation has found.

In a 600-page report released this week by the Canadian intelligence service, the pair were also accused of allowing visitors into the lab who tried to leave carrying plastic bags of vials containing an unknown substance.

Dr Xiangguo Qiu and Dr Keding Cheng were found to have left visitors with ties to the Chinese government and military unsupervised at the facility.

The report also accused the pair of being in communication with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the facility at the center of the Covid lab-leak theory, without informing superiors.

The Canadian National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they worked as researchers, is the only BSL4 lab in the country — and the only one to hold Ebola, as well as other deadly viruses like Marburg and Lassa fever.

It has now been ordered to tighten its security over the leak, with universities told their funding could be cut if they are found to be collaborating with foreign institutions — like those in China.

The Chinese couple had worked at the Canadian National Microbiology Lab (pictured) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is the only BSL4 lab in the country and cleared to handle dangerous pathogens including Ebola and Marburg virus

Dr Xiangguo Qiu was considered a star at the lab for her work on developing an Ebola treatment

Dr Kending Cheng was also working at the lab

The couple, Dr Xiangguo Qiu (left) and Dr Kending Cheng (right), are pictured above. Both are now believed to be in China

The Canadian Government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has fought for years to keep the investigation by the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) a secret, according to media reports.

The CSIS initially released a heavily-redacted version of the investigation in 2021, but this sparked outcry from the Conservative opposition and accusations of a cover-up.

This week they were forced to release the documents after a national security review by a special parliamentary committee and a panel of three retired senior judges.

The review claimed the couple had been able to use the lab as a ‘base to assist China to improve its capability to fight highly-pathogenic pathogens… and achieve brilliant results’.

Dr Qiu, born in China, was a ‘star’ at the internationally renowned lab for her work on developing an antibody treatment against Ebola — which was used in the 2014 outbreak in Africa.

But in July 2019, she and her husband were escorted from the laboratory and then dismissed from their roles in January 2021 without official explanation. 

Dr Qiu is pictured above working in the lab. Investigators said she had sent the genetic code for Ebola to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)

Dr Qiu is pictured above working in the lab. Investigators said she had sent the genetic code for Ebola to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)

Dr Qiu, shown working in the lab, was also found to have lied to officials about a vacation she took to China in 2018 and to have appeared on two Chinese patents without the knowledge of the lab

Dr Qiu, shown working in the lab, was also found to have lied to officials about a vacation she took to China in 2018 and to have appeared on two Chinese patents without the knowledge of the lab

In the newly-released assessment from 2020, the CSIS warned: ‘Dr Qiu represents a very serious and credible danger to the government of Canada as a whole.

‘And in particular at facilities considered high-security due to the potential for theft of dangerous materials attractive to terrorist and foreign entities that conduct espionage to infiltrate and damage the economic security of Canada.’

The assessment added: ‘The service assesses that Ms Qiu developed deep, co-operative relationships with a variety of People’s Republic of China (PRC) institutions. 

‘[She has also] intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China in order to benefit the PRC Government, and herself, without regard for the implications… to Canada’s interests.’

Listing violations by Dr Qiu, officials said she had provided Beijing ‘with the Ebola genetic sequence, which opened a door of convenience for China’.

They also accused her of sending live Ebola virus to the WIV, including documents in their report showing that the shipment was sent.

She was also accused of sending Henipavirus to the WIV in the shipment of 30 vials in total.

Additionally, they allege she had been contracted to work for the WIV on a trip to China in 2018 — which she had claimed was for ‘personal reasons.’

And Dr Qiu was found to have brought two restricted visitors to the lab, including a research assistant at the Academy of Military Sciences’ in Beijing and a woman who held a Chinese public affairs passport reserved for civil servants. 

The report also claims that Dr Qiu was an applicant in Beijing’s Thousand Talents Program, which was set up to pay students for participation in research to further Chinese interests.

And it alleges that she was negotiating an employment agreement with the Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang, China, between 2018 and 2022. The unfinalized agreement would have seen the equivalent of $1.2million paid to support her work.

The agency also claimed she and her husband had an undisclosed bank account in China’s Commercial Bank and that she had applid to be part of a programme at China’s WIV. As part of this, she had committed to ‘building the People’s Republic of China’s biosecurity platform for new and potent infectious disease research’.

Concerns were first raised over Dr Qiu in September 2018 when her name appeared on a patent filed in China for a treatment for Ebola — research the lab had not been told about.

The source of the tip-off has not been revealed. 

Suspicions were then raised about Dr Cheng in October after he was found to have invited students into the lab who attempted to leave carrying two clear plastic bags containing vials of an unknown substnace.

Later the same month, Dr Cheng was also caught trying to leave the lab carrying two empty Styrofoam containers, which BSL-4 labs use to transport materials, including viruses.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), concerned by the reports, launched an investigation into the pair in December 2018 — which revealed numerous security failings accusations to the pair, including that they had repeatedly allowed restricted visitors to download experimental data from the lab and send it to their email accounts.

The PHAC also alleged that in May 2018, Dr Cheng had been sent vials containing mouse protein in a package shipped from China labeled as ‘kitchen utensils’.

Dr Qiu was accused of having shipped Ebola-fighting antibodies out of the lab for at least two years to countries including China, the US and the UK.

She was also accused of being named on a second patent in China which was concerned with a treatment for Marburg virus.

Alarmed by their findings, the investigation was then passed to the CSIS just before July 2019, which launched their own security investigation — and interviewed the couple.

Health Minister Mark Holland said China’s influence on Canada’s scientific community ‘was not known to the extent it was today’, following the release of the files.

‘These were eminent scientists whose research and work was well known. They were leaders in their field, some of the brightest scientists that were known,’ he said.

‘I think there was a nascent understanding of the extent to which foreign actors in the most direct sense — China we’re talking in this instance, in other instances Russia and other foreign entities, foreign governments — were attempting to influence Canada.’

The pair have not been able to be contacted, and numerous media reports have suggested they’ve  moved to China.


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