Just How Much Damage Was Done By the Chinese Scientists Working at the Top Secret Winnipeg Lab Dealing With Lethal Pathogens (Ebola etc.)?

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How the investigation and firing of two high-security virus scientists over leaks to China unfolded

Trudeau and the Ottawa elite, in general, have been blind as to Red China’s aggressive hostility and acquisitiveness. The Sidewinder Report, disowned and shredded in a panic by Jean Chretien, gave us fair warning. In this case there may well have been a huge transfer to lethal knowledge by these two Chinese scientists. Of course, the RCMP is “still investigating” — the pyramids were built faster — and we are kept substantially in the dark. — Paul Fromm

Canadians now know why Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng were fired from Canada’s highest security lab more than three years ago

Author of the article:

Catherine Lévesque

Published Mar 02, 2024  •  Last updated 11 hours ago  •  10 minute read

Xiangguo Qiu
Xiangguo Qiu’s ouster from the National Microbiology Laboratory in 2019 remained cloaked in mystery until a few days ago. Photo by MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall/File

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OTTAWA — After being kept in the dark for years, we now know why Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng were fired from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab (NML), Canada’s highest security lab and the country’s only facility authorized to handle deadly viruses such as Ebola.

The federal government released on Wednesday more than 600 pages of documents, including top-secret CSIS assessments, investigations and internal emails detailing the reasons why the scientists were fired, why the process took so long and why it was shielded in opacity for national security reasons.

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Qiu was a prominent scientist educated in China whose research at the NML included pathogens that posed significant risk. She was credited with research breakthroughs on the deadly Ebola virus and awarded a Governor General’s Innovation Award.

Then one day in July 2019, she was suddenly escorted out of the lab and subsequently fired, along with her husband, Keding Cheng, who also worked at the lab. For nearly five years, Canadians were in the dark as to what had happened.

At one point, in 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) was even found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to hand over documents related to the mystery, despite a majority of MPs (not including the Liberals) demanding to see them.

This week, we found out what was being kept so secret: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service alleges that Qiu “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.”

She had shipped sensitive materials outside of the national microbiology lab without approval to foreign countries, they alleged. And they accused her of actively covering up, or outright lying, about her affiliations with Chinese institutions. And they allege that Cheng, her husband, participated in leaking secure information and the deception around it.

The National Post reviewed the 600 pages of investigations, assessments and emails, to put together a timeline of how the suspicions first arose, and how the security procedures subsequently played out.

Based on the documents, here’s how it all went down:

September 27, 2018

PHAC is advised that Qiu appeared as a listed inventor of a Chinese patent that may contain scientific information produced at the Canadian Sciences Centre for Human and Animal Health (CSCHAH) in Winnipeg, and that she shared the scientific data without permission. The patent was for an “inhibitor for Ebola virus.”

October 12 and 31, 2018

Allegations surface that Cheng potentially breached security policies regarding students under his supervision who tried to improperly remove laboratory materials from the CSCHAH.

One instance on Oct. 12, 2018, saw an attempted removal of two clear plastic bags, containing 10 vials each, by people known as “restricted visitors.” The incident on Oct. 31, 2018, saw other visitors accompanied by Cheng attempt to leave the CSCHAH with two empty Styrofoam containers.

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December 21, 2018

PHAC’s National Security Management Division contracts a private firm, Presidia Security Consulting, to conduct a fact-finding investigation into allegations involving Qiu and Cheng.

January 27, 2019

Cheng creates a security incident by entering an incorrect passcode when he entered the CSCHAH. The code, it turned out, belonged to someone else.

The National Microbiology Laboratory building.
The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, were escorted out of the lab in July 2019, and later fired. Photo by John Woods/The Canadian Press/File

March 23, 2019

The fact-finding report conducted by Presidia Security Consulting finds that there were “numerous violations” of the IT policy in the labs, including staff signing into computers and then allowing “restricted visitors” to download experimental data onto private Gmail accounts, emailing it to their homes.

The report also reveals that in May 2018,  Cheng was sent vials of mouse protein via courier from China marked as “kitchen utensils”. Cheng’s explanation that the broker deliberately mislabelled the package shipped from China for ease of shipping satisfied the investigator.

Regarding Qiu’s name appearing on the Chinese patent, the report found that top PHAC officials said that the likelihood of a researcher’s name appearing on a patent without the researcher being aware of it was “highly improbable” and that misstating a researcher’s name on a patent could rule it as invalid.

Qiu admitted that she had collaborated with the China National Institute for Food and Drug Control, which is attempting to develop an inhibitor to the Ebola virus, and sent them antibodies without an authorization, thus violating rules on intellectual property and material transfer agreement.

The report also indicates that the investigator later learned that other antibodies were transferred to Thomas Jefferson University, a private postsecondary institution in Philadelphia.

“The current situation has the potential to tarnish the reputation of the CSCHAH, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Minister of Health and is recommended for further investigation to determine the breadth of any breaches of policy,” the report said.

July 5, 2019

Qiu and Cheng are each informed by the vice-president of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch at PHAC that an administrative investigation into their actions is being launched and that they are to remain home with pay pending the results of the investigation.

“Should it be determined that the allegations against you are founded, administrative and/or disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment, may be taken,” the letter said.


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February 5, 2020

The administrative investigation report on Qiu finds that she violated numerous intellectual-property policies set out by PHAC. While she did have permission to provide small amounts of antibodies to trusted people and organizations, she had been doing so without authorization for at least two years.

Qiu was found to have her name on not one, but two Chinese patents, the second being a “detection method,” or test, for Marburg, a hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola.

She claimed she had been listed without her knowledge, which made her “angry,” and she believed her research was not patentable because it was too weak.

Management at the National Microbiology Lab was not aware of the work she conducted on the two Chinese projects, the report said.

The report also shows that she “inappropriately disseminated, facilitated or authorized the dissemination of scientific data and other information” including to her personal computer and stored and shared data using unauthorized USB keys, despite being told not to use personal emails and data sharing multiple times.


A separate administrative investigation on Cheng found that he too violated directives on email management and gave access to unauthorized individuals to PHAC’s IT system.

Furthermore, Cheng admitted to conducting work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China for a tick virus, which is outside of his scope of work, but said he did it out of his own self-interest, as the virus is deadly in his home province in China. The work was unknown to his supervisors.

The report determined that Cheng had also been “less than honest” about the package labelled kitchen utensils, and the incident “calls into question his honesty and integrity.”

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April 9, 2020

A secret CSIS Act security assessment sent to PHAC’s executive director of security reveals that Qiu and Cheng were listed as co-authors on an NML research paper that included individuals linked to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS) in China.


“Online information states AMMS is the highest medical research institution of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and has offensive Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) capabilities,” the document said.

The CSIS assessment of Qiu and Cheng found that, although the service has no reason to suggest that both individuals would “willingly” co-operate with a foreign power, they are both “susceptible to influence by a foreign state” that could result in information or materials leaving the lab.

CSIS assessed that there was a “strong possibility” that both individuals would continue to violate policies and procedures should they regain access to the National Microbiology Lab.

June 30, 2020

CSIS sends another security assessment to PHAC revealing that it has uncovered new information which “strongly calls into question” Qiu’s loyalty to Canada.

Qiu was “associated to multiple ‘talent programs’ administered and funded by various PRC entities, the most prominent one being the ‘Thousand Talents Program (TTP)’.” The TTP recruits Chinese experts from western nations to boost China’s national capabilities in science and technology.



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One of the TTP applications according to CSIS declares Qiu as the applicant and the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the declaring entity, stating that her work term was from 2019 to 2022.

TTP participants are given up to $1 million in research subsidies and may enjoy preferential PRC tax and visa treatment, housing subsidies and prioritized medical care in China, the report said.

CSIS also uncovered the existence of an unfinalized employment agreement between Hebei Medical University in China and Qiu from 2018 to 2022. Qiu graduated from an immunology program at Hebei Medical University, which is located in Shijiazhuang.

The agreement stipulated that she would be provided with funding of approximately $1.2 million and that her compensation would be the equivalent of $15,000 per month when onsite

Qiu listed the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Hebei Medical University, China’s National Institute for Food and Drug Control and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in CVs that were provided for Chinese audiences, security investigators discovered. But she had omitted her Chinese links on her CV when she provided it to Canadian audiences, including in her applications at PHAC.

CSIS discovered that Qiu was nominated for an “international cooperation award” by China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences for using “Canada’s Level 4 Biosecurity Laboratory as a base to assist China to improve its capability to fight highly-pathogenic pathogens… and achieved brilliant results.”

Finally, CSIS uncovered an airline ticket for Qiu for travel to Beijing in April 2018, booked by an email address associated to CanSino, a Chinese vaccine company.

CSIS concluded that Qiu has developed “deep, cooperative relationships” with PRC institutions and “intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China in order to benefit the PRC Government, and herself, without regard for the implications to her employer or to Canada’s interests.”

“The Service therefore assesses that Ms. Qiu has engaged, may engage or may be induced to engage in activities that constitute a threat to the security of Canada as defined in the CSIS Act,” it concludes.

July 7, 2020

An updated CSIS security assessment of Cheng in July 2020 “calls into question” his reliability “as it relates to loyalty” given his “close personal and professional relationship” with his wife, Qiu.


The report reveals that Cheng was aware of his wife’s applications to China-sponsored “talent programs,” as well as her associations to PRC military institutes and related individuals, and that he was himself involved in an application for one of these “talent programs” in 2013, although it is unclear what came of it.

CSIS concluded that he could not credibly claim “complete ignorance” of his wife’s activities, as he did in his security interviews with the spy agency, and that he was therefore “not truthful.”

Scientists looking through microscopes.
File photo of scientists working in Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory. Photo by Handout/National Microbiology Laboratory

August 5, 2020

Both scientists file grievances to PHAC in which they allege that the investigative and disciplinary processes were in violation of their collective agreement, that they were not afforded procedural fairness, and that they were victims of discrimination because they are Chinese.

They claimed that they were asked specific and personal questions regarding their connections to China as a result of racial profiling, and said they were loyal Canadian citizens.

August 20, 2020

Qiu and Cheng are notified by Health Canada, in separate letters, that their respective security statuses are suspended immediately, as is their pay, pending a review for cause.

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September 29, 2020

PHAC’s vice president of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch reject both scientists’ grievances in separate letters, arguing that the allegations against them are “significant and complex” and that further consultation and investigation were required as new information emerged.

While the PHAC official sympathized with the “significant emotional toll” experienced as a result of this investigation, the official rejected any notion that the two scientists suffered any prejudice, or financial damages given that they had their full salary and benefits during the entire administrative investigation period.

“With respect to your allegation of discrimination, I can assure you that the employer acted only according to the information that was brought to its attention, and your ethnicity was never a factor in determining the course of action,” the official wrote.

November 30, 2020

A report of the review of Qiu’s security status from PHAC claims there were “frequent inconsistencies” in her statements concerning breached PHAC policies and she “deflected” her links to foreign entities. It said she often claimed a lack of memory about the matters in question and rebutted allegations of improper conduct.


“To this day, despite serious consequences, she refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of her actions on PHAC,” reads the report.

It adds that Qiu has been afforded “ample opportunities to be truthful and trustworthy but continues to make blanket denials, feign ignorance and at times provide explanations that are inconsistent with the evidence gathered.”

“It is assessed that Qiu can no longer be trusted and this poses such a security risk in the workplace that cannot be mitigated.”

As for Cheng, the report states that the information collected reflects “a recurring pattern of questionable judgement that may negatively affect the performance of duties” and may lead to “an inability or unwillingness to safeguard sensitive information, assets or facilities.”

It recommends that PHAC revoke both scientists’ reliability status and secret security clearance.

January 19, 2021

Qiu and Cheng are informed of the revocation of their reliability status and secret security clearances.

January 20, 2021

The Public Health Agency officially terminates both scientists’ employment, effective immediately.
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