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In 2021 and 2022, Keding Cheng is identified in corporate social-media posts as a top immunology scientist with KingMed Diagnostics. Photos posted to WeChat, a Chinese-language social-media platform, show Mr. Cheng wearing square-framed black rim glasses, as he once did in a photo from his days in Winnipeg.Supplied

Two infectious-disease scientists fired from Canada’s high-security National Microbiology Laboratory over threats to the country’s security have been using pseudonyms as they build a new life in China.

Canadian citizens Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng, who were escorted out of the Level 4 biosafety lab in Winnipeg in 2019, are working in China and at times are using aliases. These new names are Sandra Chiu and Kaiting Cheng, but the couple describe their work and academic interests in ways that are sometimes identical to descriptions employed in the past by Dr. Qiu and Mr. Cheng.

Online records indicate that the two former Winnipeg scientists have begun to work and publish under new names, conducting research at prestigious institutions in China and alongside some of the country’s most noted scientists.

At China’s University of Science and Technology, a school with close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, Sandra Chiu uses an e-mail address that includes the name “qiu” and first initial “x.” Internet archives show that somewhere between January, 2020, and June, 2023, a one-paragraph biography of Dr. Qiu at Virologica Sinica, a scientific journal where she was on the editorial board, becomes a biography of Sandra Chiu, with no change to the wording. Academic papers show Sandra Chiu and Dr. Qiu have worked on similar areas of research.

In 2021 and 2022, Keding Cheng is identified in corporate social-media posts as a top immunology scientist with KingMed Diagnostics, which calls itself China’s leading independent clinical testing laboratory. Photos posted to WeChat, a Chinese-language social-media platform, show Mr. Cheng wearing square-framed black rim glasses, as he once did in a photo from his days in Winnipeg.

In a 2022 paper published in English, however, he is identified as Kaiting Cheng, with a KingMed e-mail address that includes the name “chengkeding.” A 2023 report posted by Hebei North University identifies a “Kaiting Cheng” as an expert in immunology at KingMed who is also a professor at Guangzhou Medical University. The Chinese character for “Cheng” is different from that used by “Keding Cheng,” although they are pronounced in the same way.

Neither Mr. Cheng nor Dr. Qiu responded to requests for comment from The Globe and Mail. Messages to researchers in the U.S. and China who co-authored academic papers with “Sandra Chiu” went unanswered.

Former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Richard Fadden said it is clear to him that the couple were trying to hide their whereabouts and their work for the Chinese government.

“It’s an indication that they have had or have something to hide and they are hoping to continue their work beneath the radar, and it is probably a further indication that their departure from the lab in Winnipeg was in our national interest,” said Mr. Fadden, who also served as national-security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Conservative government under Stephen Harper.

Mr. Fadden said he would not characterize Dr. Qiu and her husband as spies because there is no evidence that they were lifetime agents of the Chinese intelligence service. He said they are “more likely examples of any number of Chinese citizens, who broadly speaking agree with the views of China’s party state that whenever they can acquire information that is of use to China, they are going to do that.”

“I wouldn’t call them spies. I would call them broadly speaking agents of China, writ-large, and of Chinese science,” he added.

The two scientists were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in July, 2019, and later had their security clearances revoked. They were fired in January, 2021.

They have been under an RCMP national-security investigation since May, 2019.

Declassified documents tabled in the House of Commons on Feb. 28 show the couple had provided confidential scientific information to China and posed a credible security threat to the country, according to CSIS.

The Globe reported Tuesday that Dr. Qiu has been working in China and collaborating with researchers from the People’s Liberation Army. She has been conducting research with Chinese military scientists and other virology researchers, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, on antibodies for coronavirus and the deadly Ebola and Nipah viruses.

The Globe has learned Dr. Qiu appears to be preparing to publish a book on Ebola with funding from the Chinese government, according to an Oct. 16 announcement from China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. It said her book, Introduction to Ebola Virus Disease and its Prevention and Control, will be published by the Huazhong University of Science and Technology Press (HUST Press). It operates at the Huazhong University, which, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank’s defence university tracker, is designated “very high risk” for its “high number of defence laboratories and close links to China’s defence industry.”

Dan Stanton, a former executive manager at CSIS and director of the national-security program at the University of Ottawa, said Dr. Qiu and her biologist husband lost their jobs because of their links to China’s military and he believes they are now trying to cover their tracks.

“Their real names are publicly identified with that,” he said. “You don’t use an alias because you get tired of using your names. They are looking to cover up something … because right now if you Google their name it is going to be suspected Chinese intelligence or Chinese military.”

Documents released in Ottawa last month show CSIS uncovered Dr. Qiu’s association with multiple “talent programs” run by Chinese authorities that “aim to boost China’s national technological capabilities and may pose a serious threat to research institutions, including government research facilities, by incentivizing economic espionage and theft of intellectual property.”

The spy service found multiple unfinalized applications on her computers to enroll Dr. Qiu in Chinese talent-recruitment programs – initiatives that recruit experts from Western universities.

Investigators say Dr. Qiu lied about the talent-program applications.

At some point, after she was fired in January, 2021, Dr. Qiu returned to China, despite it being under a COVID-19 travel lockdown for three years until January, 2023.

Property records show Dr. Qiu and Mr. Cheng co-own two houses in Winnipeg’s South Pointe neighbourhood, a wealthy suburban area surrounded by parks and interconnecting creeks, about a 30-minute drive from the city’s downtown. They also own an undeveloped property in cottage country in Gimli, Man. They are listed as co-owners as of a title search on March 6.

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