Australian Intelligence Agencies Consulted Over Deal With Chinese Genomics Firm

May 6, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020

The Australian government has consulted national security agencies about rapid COVID-19 testing equipment secured by Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation from Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and confirmed that BGI will not have access to patient information.

BGI will not set up or operate new labs but commercial arrangements will be made with existing Australian pathology providers who will be trained by Chinese fly-in specialists, health minister Greg Hunt’s spokesperson told The Epoch Times on May 5.

“The extent of BGI’s involvement with existing Australian laboratories will be limited to the installation of COVID-19 pathology testing platforms and training of staff,” Hunt’s spokesperson said in an email.

A similar deal was struck between Israel and BGI in March. However, Clalit, Israels’ largest health service organization stated it will not work with BGI because of concerns that data will be shared on Huawei-BGI servers based in China, The Times of Israel reported

Responding to questions about security, Hunt’s spokesperson said, “Patient data is already heavily protected by existing laws and these apply to all pathology tests.”

However, BGI is closely linked with Huawei, the Chinese telecom firm that Australia banned from building its 5G infrastructure. Earlier this year, Huawei was forced to stop work on a Western Australian train network digital radio upgrade project as it was violating U.S. trade sanctions. In 2015, BGI and Huawei signed an agreement to develop big data storage systems together.

The Australian reported on May 4 that BGI will set up equipment in at least 11 Sonic Healthcare and Healius laboratories in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Wollongong, and Hobart. 

The 10 million BGI rapid testing kits were secured by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, chair of the Minderoo Foundation, through his “deep friendship” with BGI chairman Wang Jian. Minderoo will be reimbursed by the government for costs involved in the procurement. 

The BGI Group’s profitability has grown during the CCP virus pandemic. BGI has focused efforts on producing mass amounts of its rapid testing kits for foreign countries. BGI Group is one of 23 Chinese companies exporting RT PCR kits.

Some of BGI’s kits were said to be inaccurate and were withdrawn from use, as was the case in West Bengal on April 22.