Senior People’s Liberation Army officer recently praised by President Xi Jinping for developing a Chinese vaccine against COVID-19 collaborated on Ebola research with one of the scientists who was later fired from the Canadian High Security Infectious Disease Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Joint research by Major-General Chen Wei and former Canadian government laboratory scientist Xiangguo Qiu indicates that the cooperation between the Chinese military and scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) has been much higher than we never thought so before. The People’s Liberation Army is the military wing of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
major-general. Chen and Dr Qiu, who until recently headed the vaccine and antiviral therapy development section at the Winnipeg lab, collaborated on two scientific papers on Ebola, in 2016 and 2020.
These documents did not identify the Major-General. Chen as a senior officer and best epidemiologist and virologist in the Chinese military. Instead, she is identified as Wei Chen, who holds a doctorate and works at the Beijing Biotechnology Institute, which is part of the Academy of Military Sciences.
The Globe and Mail confirmed that Wei Chen and Major-General. Chen is the same person. Author Elaine Dewar first pointed out the ties between Dr. Qiu and the Major-General. Chen in his recent book, On the origin of the deadliest pandemic in 100 years: an investigation.
The Globe asked the Public Health Agency of Canada if it is standard practice for scientists at NML to work with senior military medical researchers in China.
“Although the NML does not have institutional agreements with the Chinese military, Canadian scientists have collaborated with Chinese scientists to contribute to the global public health fight against deadly diseases, such as Ebola,” said Tuesday the PHAC spokesperson Anne GÃ©nier. âThese collaborations have produced vaccines and therapeutic candidates for disease, as peer-reviewed journals show. “
Canadian author Elaine Dewar’s book raises troubling questions about the origins of COVID-19
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, says the People’s Liberation Army is unique among the armies of the great powers today because it is loyal to the Party. Chinese Communist, not to the constitution or duly elected government.
âResearch for the sake of scientific inquiry is not part of the mission of the People’s Liberation Army and its scientific or other employees,â he said. âThe scientific and other research carried out by the PLA aims above all to support the missions of the People’s Liberation Army in protecting the security of the State. “
Last week, PHAC did not say whether Major General. Chen had previously visited the Winnipeg lab, a Level 4 facility equipped to treat the world‘s deadliest diseases. The agency said it does not disclose visitor records and that privacy laws prevent it from saying whether the Major-General. Chen had been there.
âHowever, all visitors, including researchers collaborating with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), must adhere to Government of Canada and PHAC security protocols, procedures and policies and must be escorted at all times by an employee with secret authorization. spokesman Mark Johnson said.
Ward Elcock, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said Canada should not allow this kind of collaboration.
âIf I was the director of CSIS at the time and had this information in front of me, would that have sounded the alarm bells for me? Absolutely, âhe said.
CSIS did not comment on this, citing an ongoing RCMP investigation.
Dr Qiu and her husband, Keding Chang, were fired from their positions at NML in January.
The couple and an unknown number of Dr. Qiu’s students had their security clearances revoked in July 2019 and were escorted out of the facility.
Four months earlier, the NML had shipped the Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, a transfer overseen by Dr Qiu.
The Globe reported that the RCMP are investigating whether the two laid-off scientists have passed on Canadian intellectual property to China, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In June, the federal government sued House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to prevent the release of documents to MPs that could provide insight into why the couple were fired. The government abandoned the judicial quest last month.
In September 2020. Major-General. Chen was congratulated by Xi at a ceremony in Beijing for his contribution to China’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics Inc., a military-backed institute.
CanSino was granted a license last year from the National Research Council of Canada to use a Canadian biologic in an effort to jointly develop a vaccine. The plan was for a research team from Halifax to work with CanSino to conduct the first Canadian clinical trials. China later reneged on the deal and blocked vaccine shipments to Canada.
major-general. Chen is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a prestigious advisory body to senior leaders in Beijing.
His scientific work with Dr Qiu focused on Ebola research. Chinese scientists from the Academy of Military Sciences and researchers from the NML contributed to the papers.
Three NML scientists who participated in the two Ebola research projects told The Globe they had no idea Wei Chen was a major-general and China’s top virologist. They said Dr Qiu had not shared information with them about his collaborations with Chinese scientists. The Globe does not identify scientists at NML, who said the Public Health Agency of Canada had banned them from speaking to the media about the dismissal of Dr. Qiu and her husband.
Gary Kobinger, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist who worked at the NML with Dr Qiu until 2016, said he was unaware of the scientific collaboration between researchers at the Winnipeg lab and the officer Chinese. “I did not know this woman, who is certainly very high in the Chinese military structure.”
He said scientists are sometimes oblivious to affiliations of other scientists with whom they conduct research.
“For scientists, the main, if not the only, goal is science,” said Dr Kobinger. âScientists don’t pay attention to military pedigree or political positions or even beliefs or affiliation.
“Having said that, maybe this is something that should changeâ¦ maybe more scientists should be a little more careful or alert to these potential issues, because there are clearly issues with perception.”
Dr Kobinger shared a 2018 Governor General’s Award with Dr Qiu for groundbreaking Ebola research before becoming director of the Center for Research on Infectious Diseases at Laval University. He was recently appointed director of the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas.
Retired Lieutenant-General Michael Day, who headed the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command and was the chief strategic planner for the future of the Canadian Armed Forces, said it does not appear that PHAC have appropriate security measures in place.
“Why is our only National Level 4 laboratory not operating under proper safety protocols and actively monitoring what is going on there, given the consequences of misplacement?” ” he said. “The fact that we haven’t been able to properly control the scientists who go there is mind-boggling.”
Mr Elcock said federal health officials may not have been alarmed by the collaboration in 2016, as it took place in a different international environment – before relations between the West and China do not degrade. âChina is what it is. It is an authoritarian state. We are not at war with China, but China is not our friend. Why would we share this kind of sensitive information with the Chinese, I don’t know.
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