Tuesday, December 5, 2023

This story about an "invisible biolab" operating in Northern California and run by a fugitive from Canada is so strange

The set up seems absurdly lurid, and charges are pending, but tough to tell if it's just Republicans greatly exaggerating a fairly mundane grift.

From The Economists's write-up:

On a december day in 2022, [a code enforcement officer] went to a vacant warehouse to check out some suspicious parking. She was the only full-time code-enforcement officer in the town of Reedley, California, and while she was there, she noticed a green garden hose sticking out of a wall—a violation she ought to investigate. To her surprise, when she was let inside, she encountered three women in lab coats saying they were Chinese. As [she] entered the building she discovered “Biohazard” signs; vials labelled in a mix of English, Mandarin and some kind of cipher; and hundreds of caged white mice.

She had found an “invisible” biolab: a privately operated and funded lab that can avoid government oversight. It was run by Jia Bei Zhu, a man with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party (ccp) and who is wanted in Canada, from which he is said to have fled after he was ordered to pay 330m Canadian dollars for stealing American intellectual property on dairy-cattle breeding.