An illegal Chinese biolab unearthed in California roused concerns last week when local officials and contractors reported finding pathogens labeled “HIV” and “Ebola” during a CDC-ordered waste eradication at the site. Now federal agencies face criticism that they “dropped the ball” on investigating how pervasive the threat could be nationwide.
“It reads like a movie script and a horror movie script, when you detail all of those things that were missed,” Rep. Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Iowa, said Sunday on “FOX & Friends Weekend.”
Jia Bei Zhu, 62, who was behind the lab, was reportedly a Chinese citizen and a wanted fugitive from Canada.
“We want to know how he was able to obtain these pathogens. How is he able to get away with running a lab, getting millions of dollars sent to him from the Chinese Communist Party and then obviously coming into our country stealing American intellectual property?” she continued.
Last week, the House Select Committee on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced he allegedly had ties to the Chinese government. Authorities also reported Zhu had stolen millions of dollars worth of intellectual property and was part of an ongoing transnational criminal enterprise with ties to the PRC.
He was arrested in October, months after a code enforcement officer first raised eyebrows about a green garden hose sticking out of a hole at the location – a code violation that spawned further inspection with alarming results, including the discovery of thousands of vials containing biological substances and mice used for disease research.
Hinson, like others, is concerned that more could be hidden across the U.S., posing a threat to national security.
“The FBI and the CDC really dropped the ball here in terms of investigating not only this illegal lab, but now we wonder how many more labs like this exist in the country,” she said.
“So clearly, we have some work to do to make sure we’re prepared, because we know China is doing everything they can to constantly undermine us.”
The House Select Committee on the PRC further claimed that both the FBI and the CDC were contacted by local law enforcement, but the agencies declined to investigate.
Officials later contacted Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., who pressed the CDC to get involved, prompting the agency to conduct an investigation that reportedly unearthed “at least 20 potentially infectious agents,” but eventually wrote that the investigation unearthed “no evidence of select agents or toxins” in a three-page report on the findings.
Local officials – and House members critical of the investigation – simultaneously argue the agency’s actions fell short.