Belgian intelligence officials have accused China of espionage targeting the county’s biological warfare and vaccine experts.
A report in the EU Observer details reports from Belgium’s homeland security service, the Veiligheid van de Staat (VSSE), dating back a decade showing threats of Chinese military, scientific, and medical espionage.
“This area [biological warfare and vaccines] is of great interest to Chinese [intelligence] services. Both defensively, because China, due to its overpopulation, is very exposed to epidemics, as well as offensively, since it has studied Ebola as an offensive vector”. one of the reports notes.
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The VSSE report says that a former Belgian bioweapons expert was targeted by Chinese spies in 2010 while working as a scientist in Brussels:
He was very friendly with a Chinese scientist, whom he had “introduced into the scientific and medical milieu” in Belgium, the VSSE said.
But the Chinese scientist used to be a military doctor in the Chinese army, the VSSE noted, and “she might keep too-close ties with her country in general and her former employer in particular”, it added.
“She was obviously MSS,” the Belgian security source told EUobserver, referring to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
Another bioweapons researcher, Jean-Luc Gala, was also targeted by China according to the report, during a time he was testing Japanese anti-viral drug Avigan, which is now being researched as a potential coronavirus treatment.
“The VSSE noted that two suspicious Chinese entities had opened offices on a different floor of the same campus building that housed units of the Belgian bioweapons institute.” the report states.
The report also suggest that Beijing has targeted the Belgium office of British pharmaceutical giant and vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
While the report notes that the suspicions have no direct link to the current coronavirus pandemic, they come at a time when China is under intense scrutiny owing to its attempted cover up of the pandemic outbreak.
Intelligence agencies in the UK and the US this week jointly warned that ‘rival states’ are conducting ‘malicious cyber campaigns’ against universities, pharmaceuticals and research institutes carrying out research on the coronavirus.
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