Fired Winnipeg lab scientist allegedly led bat filovirus project at Wuhan: report

According to a 614-page CSIS report, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu is alleged to have worked with Dr. Shi Zhengli on a synthetic bat filovirus project at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — where COVID-19 reportedly originated.

Fired Winnipeg lab scientist allegedly led bat filovirus project at Wuhan: report
THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods and X/ @CPHO_Canada
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One of the Winnipeg scientists who transferred confidential, virulent materials to China years ago allegedly led a synthetic bat filovirus project at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — where COVID-19 is alleged to have originated.

In July 2019, two infectious disease researchers, Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, lost their security clearances at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg after they leaked confidential information to China.

CSIS investigators learned that Dr. Qiu collaborated with Chinese state agencies, including military researchers on experiments with Ebola, Lassa fever and Rift Valley fever, including Major-General Chen Wei, China’s leading military epidemiologist and virologist. She notably shipped two exceptionally virulent strains of the Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan facility.

Simultaneously, she allegedly spearheaded a synthetic bat filovirus project with the WIV vice-director, a senior Chinese scientist that previously worked on a “hybrid version of a bat coronavirus,” as first reported by The Bureau.

After the Trudeau Liberals disclosed a 614-page report last week on the lab leaks, the publication uncovered ‘explosive evidence’ to suggest Dr. Qiu worked with Dr. Shi Zhengli, also known as the “bat woman.”

The Chinese virologist is front and centre in the COVID-19 Wuhan lab-leak theory, as supported by some in Western intelligence, including CSIS investigators with knowledge of Dr. Qiu’s probe.

The intelligence agency learned that “Ms. Qiu was listed as being in charge of Overall Planning” for a WIV “animal infection” project from June 2019 to May 2021. It notes one of the scientists involved had employment with the Public Health Agency of Canada in February 2018, who faced accusations of trying to steal classified materials from the Winnipeg lab in 2018.

From October 2017 to January 2018, Dr. Qiu “collaborated on the application with” that individual, the senior technician who worked with her on bat filoviruses in 2019, according to CSIS records.

Additional evidence showed Cheng, her husband and a molecular biologist, gave encrypted USB keys with passwords to “restricted visitors” at the lab. Among the visitors included several Chinese students that included People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers that were caught removing vials.

In one 2018 incident, Cheng received a package from China marked “kitchen utensils” that contained lab proteins that could be used to recreate viruses.

On Friday, a reporter asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau how Chinese scientists, collaborating with China on high-security viruses, are not considered a threat to Canada. He replied: “Our intelligence and security agencies flagged problems at the Winnipeg labs that were followed up on.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters on Thursday that the PLA gained personal access to “all of our most important virological secrets.”

Dr. Qiu admitted this work could be used for “nefarious purposes such as biological weapons.

“We [also] learned the Trudeau government's head of pathogens was collaborating with members of Beijing's People's Liberation Army who are responsible for bioweapons and bioterrorism,” noted Poilievre.

“Dr. Qiu presents a realistic and credible threat to Canada's economic security when conducting repeated and clandestine meetings with foreign entities,” he said.

According to CSIS records, WIV secretly hired Dr. Qiu because she was the only “Chinese” scientist worldwide with access to a Level 4 lab outside China, reported The Bureau.

The WIV’s 2019 bat filovirus project in Wuhan included Dr. Qiu “to use reverse genetics in order to create synthetic virus strains.”

According to documentation from the Chinese Communist Party, they planned another secret WIV project involving Dr. Qiu and Ebola viruses. "We are in the process of applying for the official permit to transfer BSL-4 pathogens from Canada to China," it reads.

"To avoid confusing the leaders, it's better not to let [the] National Microbiology Laboratory know about this project ... it's not so necessary to have the opinion from the National Microbiology Laboratory."

CSIS contends that WIV secretly sponsored Qiu to work with the PLA, which paid foreign scientists under-the-table for Chinese military application of Western civilian research.

A CSIS interrogator told Qiu "[redacted] is a Major General in the PLA and ... [redacted] is involved in bioweapons research and this is publicly available knowledge."

"She is?" Qiu told the CSIS interrogator. "I wasn't aware." The report painted Dr. Qiu as "dismissive" when asked about her collaborations with WIV and other Chinese institutions.

Dr. Qiu’s name appears as a co-author on more than 120 scientific research papers published between 2000 and 2021. A significant number were collaborations with Chinese scientists, and much of the research was funded by Chinese government bodies.

“The International scientific community raised concerns as to whether or not it should allow laboratory research that increased the virulence, ease of spread or host range of dangerous pathogens,” the report said regarding the plan for Dr. Qiu to work with synthetic bat viruses.

In 2021, MPs learned that lab managers expressed queasiness over their Chinese contacts. “I have some concerns here,” the lab’s scientific director wrote in a 2018 staff email.

Health Minister Mark Holland could not justify Dr. Qiu and Cheng’s hiring before the media on Wednesday.

The Public Health Agency gave them their walking papers in January 2021 but never disclosed the reason for their dismissal.

“Did [Trudeau] fire anybody? No, no one was fired,” said Poilievre. 

“Did he call an inquiry to get to the bottom of it? No, he didn't do that either.”

Instead, the Prime Minister covered it all up, claimed Poilievre. “[Trudeau] defied four parliamentary orders to release these documents … all for national security,” he added.

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