Canada fired two scientists for sharing information with Beijing, says paper

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 4:11 PM

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada fired two scientists working at a high-security infectious disease laboratory in 2021 because they provided confidential information to China, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Officials concluded that the husband and wife team were “a realistic and credible threat to Canada’s economic security,” the paper said, citing a mass of documents that the government released after a long fight with opposition legislators who had demanded information behind the sackings.

Health Minister Mark Holland, decrying what he called unacceptable security lapses at the lab at the time, said there had been no risk to national security.

Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, were escorted out of the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg in 2019 and their security permits revoked. They were fired in 2021.

Canadian police said in 2019 they were launching a probe into the matter but Wednesday’s revelation was the first time that details of the sackings were revealed.

The documents show the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concluded Qiu “had intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China”, the Globe said.

It is not clear whether the couple is still in Canada.

The news is likely to worsen already chilly ties with Beijing, especially since Ottawa has set up an investigation into alleged Chinese interference in domestic Canadian affairs.

The Winnipeg laboratory’s work includes research on the most dangerous human and animal pathogens, such as Ebola.

“At no time did national secrets, or information that threatened the security of Canada, leave or enter the lab,” Holland told reporters, saying the couple had not been transparent about their dealings with China.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler)