WASHINGTON DC – The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party has presented its final report on its investigation into the illegal biolab discovered in Reedley last December.
Presented on Nov. 15, the committee’s report revealed that the lab owner had closer ties to the Chinese government than had been discovered, and raised the question of whether this individual was actively working on behalf of the Chinese government. The report also disclosed that Reedley officials, having received no help or cooperation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had to enlist the aid of Congressman Jim Costa in order to proceed with their investigation into the lab and its owner.
As reported on multiple occasions in the Times, the investigation into the lab was instigated after Reedley Code Enforcement Officer Jesalyn Harper discovered a garden hose attached to the rear wall of a warehouse located at 850 I Street.
That discovery led to an investigation that revealed, in the warehouse, the presence of thousands of potentially lethal infectious agents; half a million pregnancy and COVID test kits, which were later determined to be counterfeit; nearly 1,000 lab mice that had been engineered to catch and transmit COVID; and freezers containing human tissue and fluid and thousands of other anonymous chemicals.
AN UNRESPONSIVE CDC
Congressman Mike Gallagher, R-WI, presented the report’s findings via a video presentation. Narrating the presentation, Gallagher said that after Reedley officials began their investigation into the lab, they reached out to the CDC for help and guidance.
The CDC refused to speak to city officials and actually hung up on officials during a phone call. According to the report, the CDC refused to test or examine the pathogens discovered in the lab. Reedley officials offered to pay for the CDC to test the materials; the CDC refused.
Only after Reedley officials enlisted the aid of Costa, whose district includes Reedley, did the CDC cooperate with the investigation. But according to the report, the CDC’s involvement in the investigation was desultory – half hearted – at best.
After finally investigating onsite, CDC officials concluded there was no evidence of agents or toxins, and ordered state and local officials to destroy the chemicals in the lab pursuant to a court order.
As a result of this order, state and local officials eradicated 104 tons of general waste and 448 gallons of biological waste.
The report revealed that after the CDC conducted its investigation of the warehouse, a freezer that was labeled “Ebola” was discovered. Inside the freezer were sealed bags. These bags were sealed in a manner consistent with storing the pathogen. According to the report, Ebola has a 25% to 90% fatality rate.
According to the report, “No one knows how many answers were destroyed based on the CDC’s inaction.”
JIA BEI “JESSE” ZHU
As reported in the Times, in October, in a sting operation carried out by City Manager Nicole Zieba, Harper and armed agents from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lab owner Jia Bei “Jesse” Zhu was taken into custody outside of 850 I Street. Zieba and Harper contacted Zhu regarding materials that were still in the warehouse and asked if he wanted to inspect the materials.
Zhu is currently incarcerated in Fresno. He faces federal charges, including selling counterfeit test kits and lying to federal authorities.
Prior to the report, little was known about Zhu, who operated under the alias “David He.” Officials knew he had a $330 million judgment against him stemming from illegal activities in Canada. The committee report said that while in Canada, Zhu formed dozens of companies that engaged in massive theft of American intellectual property.
The report also found that Zhu served as a corporate officer on military organizations within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and private organizations affiliated with or partially controlled by the Chinese government.
According to the report, by Zhu’s own admission, the theft of U.S. intellectual property was done to benefit PRC-affiliated companies and to meet the stated demands of the PRC premier.
In private messages on the Chinese social media app, WeChat, Zhu boasted that the intellectual property he stole would help “defeat the American aggressor; The wild, ambitious wolf.” He added, “While the law is strong, the outlaw is 10 times stronger.”
After the judgment was handed down, Zhu entered the U.S. illegally.
The committee report revealed that Zhu, in addition to being a Chinese national, has ties to PRC entities. According to the report, Zhu received money from the PRC to purchase counterfeit pregnancy and COVID test kits, which his company, Prestige Biotech, Inc., marketed to retailers across the U.S at a significant markup. The FDA has since issued a recall for those test kits.
Even more than that, according to the report, the counterfeit test kits discovered in Reedley did not require pathogens, the mice, or the other biological substances also discovered in the lab. The report also noted that maintaining the freezers and other equipment was extremely expensive. Zhu was spending “a small fortune” on the unlicensed and illegal lab. To finance his operation, the report found that Zhu received “unexplained” money transfers from PRC-controlled bank accounts.
Over a period of two years, more than $2 million was transferred to Zhu.
WHAT CONGRESS HAS TO SAY
Costa, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-IL, spoke at the press conference.
“The city of Reedley and the officials, I think, did a terrific job in trying to do their best efforts to protect the community and potentially other impacts,” Costa said.
Costa added that officials, such as himself and his fellow congressmen, represent counties throughout the country that each have their respective public health officers. In this case, the public health officer for Fresno County was the appropriate body that was engaged, who worked closely with Zieba; who Costa also noted did a terrific job representing her staff and her council – even despite some political issues at the local level that arose from citizens’ concerns.
“We need to figure out how we can prevent these kinds of incidents, whether this is a rogue actor or (whatever it was) his ultimate intentions were,” Costa said. “I hope we find out, but clearly … it tells everyone out there that, if we continue with the status quo, we could have a whole lot of problems on our hands.”
In his statements, Krishnamoorthi noted massive problems with biosafety regulations, stating that anyone can purchase these pathogens if they wanted to.
“We must make sure the CDC and other actors have the tools to proactively make sure the Reedley situation doesn’t reoccur,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Lastly, we do not want to hear from local officials that assistance was not rendered.”
As for McCarthy, the former House speaker said – through this situation – some hard truths were learned.
“This lab owner should not have been in the country,” he said. “Also, the failure of the CDC. Congress should not have had to get involved. Local authorities reached out to federal authorities and the CDC hung up. When it showed up, it didn’t test the pathogens and didn’t even find the Ebola freezer. We need legislation to safeguard against pathogens. We need new CDC guidelines.”
McCarthy added, “We still don’t have a clear understanding of what was going on. How many more labs are in the U.S.? Is China involved with other labs in the U.S.?”