Fired Winnipeg lab scientists appear to be using new names in China

A new report sheds light on recent activities of Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng, a couple who were fired from Canada's top lab over national security concerns in 2019.

Fired Winnipeg lab scientists appear to be using new names in China
The Canadian Press / John Woods and Handout Cleared
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Two scientists who were fired from Canada's top microbiology laboratory over national security fears linked to the pair's connection to the People's Republic of China are apparently building new lives under pseudonyms.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng, who were removed from the Level 4 lab in Winnipeg in 2019, appear to be using new names as they continue their research.

Online records show scientists named Sandra Chiu and Kaiting Cheng have used sometimes identical descriptions previously used by Qiu and Cheng, reports the Globe.

Earlier this week, the outlet reported how Qiu had resurfaced after leaving Canada at a prestigious Chinese institution. The Globe report explains the connection between Qiu, Cheng and the new aliases:

At China’s University of Science and Technology, a school with close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, Sandra Chiu uses an e-mail address that includes the name “qiu” and first initial “x.” Internet archives show that somewhere between January, 2020, and June, 2023, a one-paragraph biography of Dr. Qiu at Virologica Sinica, a scientific journal where she was on the editorial board, becomes a biography of Sandra Chiu, with no change to the wording. Academic papers show Sandra Chiu and Dr. Qiu have worked on similar areas of research.

Further connections between Keding Cheng and Kaiting Cheng date back to 2021 and 2022, when Keding was featured in pictures from KingMed Diagnostics, a Chinese clinical testing lab. Photos posted to WeChat by the company showed Keding wearing similar eyeglasses to Kaiting Cheng from his time in Winnipeg.

A 2022 research paper published in English by Kaiting Cheng, however, includes a KingMed email address with the name “chengkeding,” the Globe notes.

Then, in 2023, a report published online by Hebei North University labelled Kaiting Cheng  

“In a 2022 paper published in English, however, he is identified as Kaiting Cheng, with a KingMed e-mail address that includes the name ‘chengkeding,’” the Globe reports.

“A 2023 report posted by Hebei North University identifies a “Kaiting Cheng” as an expert in immunology at KingMed who is also a professor at Guangzhou Medical University. The Chinese character for “Cheng” is different from that used by “Keding Cheng,” although they are pronounced in the same way.”

Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng were escorted out of the Winnipeg National Microbiology Laboratory in 2019 after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service “developed deep, cooperative relationships with a variety of People’s Republic of China institutions and has intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China in order to benefit the PRC government,” the National Post reported earlier this month in piece examining the timeline of events surrounding the husband-and-wife scientists.

The RCMP has been investigating the couple over national security concerns since May 2019. Documents declassified in the House of Commons in February revealed the couple provided confidential scientific information to Chinese officials, with CSIS viewing them as a potential threat.

Speaking to the Globe, former CSIS director Richard Fadden felt the couple were trying to conceal their whereabouts and work for the Chinese Communist Party, though he was unwilling to call them spies.

“It’s an indication that they have had or have something to hide and they are hoping to continue their work beneath the radar, and it is probably a further indication that their departure from the lab in Winnipeg was in our national interest,” he said, describing how the researchers were “more likely examples of any number of Chinese citizens, who broadly speaking agree with the views of China’s party state that whenever they can acquire information that is of use to China, they are going to do that.”

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