High-ranking Winnipeg scientist secretly fled Canada for China: report

In July 2019, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu lost her security clearance at a top security Winnipeg lab for leaking confidential information to China. She left for China and is reportedly working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on antibodies for coronavirus and the Ebola and Nipah viruses.

High-ranking Winnipeg scientist secretly fled Canada for China: report
The Canadian Press / John Woods and MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall
Remove Ads

One of the fired Winnipeg scientists who transferred confidential, virulent materials to China years ago reportedly disappeared but has now been found working in China with military researchers.

Dr. Xiangguo Qiu is currently working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on antibodies for coronavirus and the Ebola and Nipah viruses, reported The Globe and Mail.

In July 2019, two infectious disease researchers, Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, lost their security clearances at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg after they leaked confidential information to China. Cheng’s whereabouts are unknown as of writing.

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

Intelligence 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 Nipah viruses to the Wuhan facility.

“I wasn’t aware. I didn’t know,” she told CSIS investigators when asked about Major-General Chen’s bioweapon’s research.

It then became known the reasons for their dismissal: they lied about their cooperation with China.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters on March 1 that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) gained personal access to “all of our most important virological secrets” at the infectious disease lab in Winnipeg.

Dr. Qiu admitted this work could be used for “nefarious purposes such as biological weapons,” he said the following day, calling her a “realistic and credible threat to Canada's economic security.”

The publication sought confirmation of their whereabouts from the RCMP, who declined to confirm the recent development or discuss whether Dr. Qiu’s return to China posed a national security risk to Canada.

“My sense is this was part of a larger strategy by China to get access to our innovation system,” said Filippa Lentzos, an associate professor of science and international security at King’s College London. “It was a way for them to find out what was going on in Canada’s premier lab.”

“She’s done a very good job for the government of China,” added Brendan Walker-Munro, senior research fellow at Australia’s University of Queensland Law School. “She’s promoted their interests abroad. She’s returned information that is credibly useful to China and to its ongoing research.”

In March 2023, a document posted by a Chinese pharmaceutical company listed Dr. Qiu as a “major completion personnel” on a therapeutic antibody project for Ebola in collaboration with the PLA. 

She is most closely aligned with the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Hefei, according to documents reviewed by The Globe

The founding intent behind USTC was pursuing technology to build satellites, intercontinental ballistic missiles and atomic bombs. The university reportedly maintains close military ties.

“Well, that makes me wonder what circumstances she was under when she emigrated to Canada. Why did she come?” asked Earl Brown, a professor emeritus of biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa’s faculty of medicine who has worked extensively in China in the past. 

“People leave for more freedom from China, or to make more money,” he said. “But China keeps tabs on most people, so I am not sure if she came over to infiltrate or whether she came, and the infiltration happened later through contact with China.”

During Dr. Qiu’s tenure at the Winnipeg lab, she reportedly cemented her reputation for academic collaboration with China. 

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, including a scientific paper on Ebola antibodies at WIV on March 31, 2017.

Canada’s health agency approved Dr. Qiu’s training in Wuhan for the fall of 2017. Her managers were left in the dark regarding her interest in the recruitment programs.

They initially welcomed the collaboration and became increasingly concerned towards the end of her tenure.

When the Intelligence Service intervened in 2018, their investigation uncovered 44 collaborative projects with Chinese scientists independent of the lab.

Among them included multiple China-led “talent programs” to “boost China’s national technological capabilities … by incentivizing economic espionage and theft of intellectual property.”

The Intelligence Service contends that WIV secretly sponsored Dr. Qiu to work with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which paid foreign scientists under the table for Chinese military application of Western civilian research.

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.

One program involved the construction of a new “biosecurity platform for new and potent infectious disease research” for China. All intellectual property would belong to WIV, with upwards of $1 million in research subsidies at stake.

While compiling her application, Dr. Qiu arranged for a WIV employee to work as her understudy as a visiting researcher at the Winnipeg lab.

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.

Ultimately, she lied about the talent program applications, according to CSIS.

“Concerning applying to external talent programs, during the security interview, Dr. Qiu indicated that she never filled out an application, that any applications were filled out by others and finally that her information and photograph were inserted without her knowledge,” investigators said.

The Globe uncovered four Chinese patents since 2020 that named the scientist, including two at the Wuhan lab regarding her current area of research, where she is rumoured to have experimented with a bat coronavirus, reported The Bureau.

On February 28, the Trudeau Liberals disclosed a 614-page report on the lab leaks, noting Dr. Qiu’s alleged involvement with Dr. Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist who is front and centre in the COVID-19 Wuhan lab leak theory.

Dr. Qiu allegedly chaired a synthetic bat filovirus project at the same lab, where COVID-19 is alleged to have originated.

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads