Health Minister Patty Hajdu refused to answer why a Chinese military scientist was given access to work at Canada’s highest-security infectious-disease lab during Question Period at the House of Commons Tuesday.
“How on earth did a Chinese military scientist get access to the government’s lab in Winnipeg, a level 4 facility equipped to handle the world’s deadliest viruses, and why are Canadian government scientists collaborating with China’s military scientists on deadly viruses?” Conservative MP Michael Chong asked Hajdu, referring to the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML).
“This question gives me an opportunity to thank the incredible hardworking researchers and scientists at the National Microbiology Lab who have been there for Canadians from the beginning of the emergence of COVID-19 and before,” Hajdu replied.
Chong then told Hajdu to “come clean and tell Canadians and this House what actually happened.”
“Those two researchers are no longer with the Public Health Agency of Canada. I cannot comment further,” she said.
The Globe and Mail reported on May 20 that seven scientists in the special pathogens unit at NML had collaborated with Chinese military researchers in the research of infectious diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, and Rift Valley fever. Both sides conducted experiments and co-authored six studies in which their findings were published between early 2016 and early 2020.
Among the Chinese researchers, Feihu Yan, from the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, was granted security clearance to work at the Winnipeg lab for a period of time. In all of the six papers, Yan is credited as the co-author, while in two of them, he is listed as being affiliated with NML and the military medical academy.
Over at the NML, the Globe reported on May 12 the reason why Chinese scientist Xianguo Qiu and her biologist husband, Keding Cheng, and some of Qiu’s students from China were escorted from the Winnipeg lab and stripped of their security access in July 2019 is because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) urged the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to do so on national security grounds.
The CSIS was concerned about the nature of information that Qiu had passed to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, particularly the people she had spoken to in China and the intellectual property that she might have given to the Chinese regime, reported the Globe and Mail. Qiu had made at least five visits to China between 2017 and 2018, including one trip to train Chinese scientists and technicians at a newly certified Level 4 lab. In March 2019, Qiu shipped the Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan lab.
But the PHAC has maintained that the couple’s removal from the lab had nothing to do with the virus shipment. In February, the PHAC confirmed they were fired from NML in January, but didn’t elaborate further.
In response, the Commons Committee on Canada-China Relations summoned PHAC president Iain Stewart in March to disclose the reasons behind the removal. He refused to provide the details. Stewart was summoned again in May to explain why unredacted documents related to the deadly virus transfer were not provided upon request by the committee, he replied it would breach the Privacy Act.