New Delhi: The Globe and Mail, through an excellent piece of investigative journalism, have discovered a previously unknown link between a high-ranking PLA officer and Canada’s high-security infectious disease laboratory in Winnipeg. According to reports, Major-General Chen Wei collaborated with former Canadian government lab scientist Dr Xiangguo Qiu on Ebola research and even published papers in cooperation with one another in 2016 and 2020.
Dr Qiu is currently being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in regards to whether the scientist illegally transferred Canadian intellectual property to China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Major-General Wei, notably, is a leading figure in the People’s Liberation Army and in the recent past was publicly praised by Chinese President Xi Jinping for her work in developing the Chinese one-shot COVID-19 vaccine by CanSino. Qiu was a researcher at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) and was also in-charge of the lab’s vaccine development and antiviral therapies section.
In the Ebola research paper where both Chen and Qiu collaborated, Wei Chen was credited but her ties to the Chinese military as her identity as the Chinese military’s top epidemiologist and virologist was not disclosed. The fact that Wei Chen and Maj-Gen. Chen are the same person was first revealed in a book titled ‘On the Origin of the Deadliest Pandemic in 100 Years: An investigation’ by Elaine Dewar. This fact was later also confirmed by The Globe.
Upon being asked whether it was standard practice for Level 4 lab’s such as NML to collaborate with high-ranking Chinese military scientists, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) answered that there was no agreement between the NML and the Chinese military. But it added that Canadian scientists in the past have collaborated with Chinese scientists in order to further the cause of science and uncover breakthroughs in research.
At this point, one must remember the fact that the PLA is very different from other armies around the world. The PLA is the military wing of the Chinese Communist Party and not a national army, it is not subservient to the wills of the Chinese government or the elected representatives. The PLA exists to only maintain the strength of the Party and to fulfil its mission. While scientific inquiry and the fight against deadly diseases is important, it is not a prerogative for the PLA. The only reason a high-ranking PLA officer like Maj.-Gen. Chen would be collaborating with the now-disgraced Dr Qiu is if the research and/or work would in some way benefit the CCP.
The disgraced Dr Qiu and her husband were fired from the NML in January but in reality, the couple had their security clearances revoked in July 2019. It is impossible to even determine whether Maj.-Gen Chen visited the lab in Winnipeg because the PHAC has stated that visitor records are private.
While commenting on the collaboration, Ward Elcock, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stated that this type of collaboration between a high-ranking Chinese military scientist and a Canadian scientist at a Level 4 bio-facility should not have been allowed in the first place and would have certainly alarmed him if he was the director of CSIS at the time. Just a few months before having her security clearance removed, Dr Qiu was in-charge of overseeing the transfer of Ebola and Henipa viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
Three NML scientists who had worked on the Ebola research papers alongside Dr Qiu and Maj.-Gen Chen stated that they had no idea that their colleague (Wei Chen) held a high rank in the PLA and was China’s top virologist. The three scientists added that Dr Qiu had failed to share this key piece of information.
As per the report, Maj-Gen Chen is not an ordinary Chinese scientist, she is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that directly advises the top leadership in the CCP. In addition, Chen was commended by President Xi Jinping in September 2020 for her work on China’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine which was developed by CanSino Biologics Inc. (supported by the Chinese military). In 2020 Canada’s National Research Council had actually given Can Sino the licence to use its biological product in order to jointly develop a vaccine but China later suddenly went back on the deal and even stopped shipment of vaccines to Canada.
While speaking to the media, retired Lieutenant-General Michael Day, who led the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command stated that the PHAC is severely lacking in security measures. He added that it was mind-boggling that Canada’s only national Level 4 lab failed to properly vet scientists.
Over the course of 2020, and even now in 2021 the world has suffered and continues to suffer from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus. Even after a year, the world has not been able to definitively pinpoint the origins of this mysterious virus that first appeared in Wuhan China. Irrespective of its origin, one irrefutable fact remains true that China’s negligence and drive to hide the spread of the COVID-19 virus allowed the virus to spread much faster and resulted in dozens of countries being caught off-guard.
Over time, as Beijing’s relationship with Washington and the West has soured it has become clear that the lab leak theory that was initially dismissed is not a mere conspiracy theory but a real possibility. The theory states that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is in close proximity to where the first cases of COVID-19 appeared. Whether its leak was unintentional or a deliberate ploy by Beijing is another debate altogether.
The incidents surrounding COVID-19 as well as China’s recent aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific and the border with India have opened the eyes of the international community as to how big of a threat China really is. In order to deflect blame, Beijing even launched a massive disinformation/misinformation campaign about the COVID-19 virus including outrageous theories such as how the virus started from a bio lab in the US to it having been smuggled into China via Europe through frozen foods. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that China has tried to hide its involvement or the involvement of its personnel in scandals surrounding COVID-19 and its vaccine.
The recent revelation that a high-ranking officer from the Chinese military was in close contact with a scientist from a Level 4 bio-lab in Canada has revealed the lapses in security of PHAC and another one of Beijing’s schemes. The Chinese government is no doubt try to sweep this newly discovered connection under the rug, but those that know China or its schemes are aware that Beijing does not take any action that does not benefit it.