The warehouse interior of a suspected biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)
An Epoch Times investigation has revealed further details on Jiabei “Jesse” Zhu, the person behind the black-market biolab discovered in California, as well as his connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The secret biolab operated in a warehouse in Reedley, California, about 25 miles southeast of Fresno. It was discovered on Dec. 19, 2022, by Jesalyn Harper, a code enforcement officer with the City of Reedley Fire Department.
In the warehouse, Ms. Harper discovered thousands of vials of infectious agents, including coronavirus, chlamydia, E. coli, streptococcus pneumonia, HIV, hepatitis, herpes, rubella, and malaria.
On Oct. 19, 2023, Mr. Zhu was arrested in California and charged with manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices and for making false statements to the FDA.
Mr. Zhu filed a suit against the city of Reedley for $30 million and against the county for $50 million. The prospect of having a conversation with the city leaders regarding his claims was used to entice him to show up at the warehouse and have him arrested on the spot by FDA agents with automatic machine guns in their hands.
Mr. Zhu had claimed that he was a consultant named David He hired to help get Universal Meditech and Prestige Biotech out of the trouble they were in. Prestige Biotech is the company that owns the biolab in Reedley.
However, City of Reedley officials recognized him as Universal Meditech’s president.
“This is not a hired consultant; this is the lab CEO. The picture we have of the lab CEO matches this guy perfectly,” said Nicole Zieba, Reedley city manager, in an interview with The Epoch Times.
But she still cannot figure out what Mr. Zhu was thinking in suing the city, pretending to be someone else, and bringing attention to himself, which ultimately led to his arrest.
“I’m not sure if it’s stupidity, arrogance, or some long con that we simply haven’t figured out ... but it certainly is confounding and baffling to me,” said Ms. Zieba.
The investigation by The Epoch Times revealed additional connections between Mr. Zhu and the CCP. Mr. Zhu’s father, Zongxiang Zhu, was born in 1923 and is a famed acupuncture expert and medical educator in China. He also serves as Director Professor of Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to 163.com. According to a Chinese encyclopedia, until recently Zongxiang Zhu has been involved in various activities and has been a very well recognized figure in China.
Jiabei Zhu’s mother, Pengdi Zhu, was listed as one of the ultimate beneficial owners at Aide Modern Cattle Industry (China) Company Limited and at least four other Chinese companies controlled by Jiabei Zhu, according to the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party report that was released on Nov. 15, 2023.
Pengdi Zhu’s name is also listed as the beneficial owner of Qingdao Aide Biotechnology Development Fund (General Partnership), a company that partners with Jiabei Zhu’s company Ai De Biopharmaceutical Industry (Qingdao) Co., Ltd. Shanghai Kunpeng Technology Investment and Development Limited, a company that has Pengdi Zhu as its legal representative and that is currently suspended according to the Shanghai Businesses listing website, invested 2,250,000 yuan (approximately $314,879) in Aide Modern Cattle Industry (Qingdao) Company Limited in December 2020.
According to the House Select Committee’s report, the main company Jiabei Zhu controlled, Aide Modern Cattle Industry (China) Company Limited, was established in 2002 with a registered equity of 181,000,000 yuan ($25,219,092 with today’s exchange rate).
According to the company’s listing website, the company has gotten into 62 lawsuits, the most recent one a financial loan contract dispute, which triggered a 10 million yuan ($1,393,418 under current rate) equity freeze and ended in an execution that targeted 12,294,755 yuan ($1,713,698 under current rate) on Oct. 27, 2023.
According to the updated status on the qcc.com website, Aide Modern Cattle Industry (China) Company Limited was listed as “abnormally operating” on Sept. 23, 2021 because people were not able to contact the company via the registered address.
Though The Epoch Times did not obtain the exact date Mr. Zhu entered the United States as Qiang (David) He, the year 2021 matches the time that his main company in China was listed as “abnormally operating” due to lack of contact.
Aide Modern Cattle Industry (China) Company Limited is still active, according to the qcc.com website. Xuejun Zhang, board member of the public company Jushri Technologies Inc., was also listed as an active board member of Aide Modern Cattle Industry (China) Company Limited, on page 39 of the Jushri Technologies 2022 annual report issued April 24, 2023.
Mr. Zhu had a judgment against him in 2016 for $330 million in Canadian dollars from the B.C. Supreme Court in Canada as well as another judgment for $8.5 million in Canadian dollars in a Hong Kong court in the same year. However, no lawsuits were filed in China for the same damages incurred, where Aide continues to operate.
Other connections include Barry Zhang (Bai-Rui Zhang), who is listed as Prestige Biotech’s registered agent by the Nevada Secretary of State; and Michael M. Lin (Meng-Ru Lin) of Lin Law Group in Nevada, who is the leading attorney hired by Universal Meditech. Both have close relationships with the CCP’s United Front.
Mr. Zhang was listed as one of the community leaders in Hunan Benevolent Association of America, according to its official website, while Mr. Lin was an active sponsor for the Las Vegas Chinese Spring Festival Gala supported by Consulate General of P.R.C. in San Francisco. Universal Meditech also seemed to have a close relationship with the Chinese government. Its COO, Candace Liu, attended the 2019 China-California Business Forum as a guest. The forum was mainly organized by the Chinese General Consulate Los Angeles as well as the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, according to a UNE News report.
Currently, according to LinkedIn, Ms. Liu is the vice president of business development, North America, at jd.com, one of China’s largest online retail companies.
The California biolab received more than $1.3 million in unexplained payments from banks in China while in operation, according to U.S. lawmakers.
Possible Ebola in Freezer
In May 2023, several agencies inspected the lab—the CDC, FDA, County Public Health, and California Department of Public Health. They looked at all the items in the refrigerators and freezers that were labeled and that they could determine what they were. However, there were many other items that were not labeled or were labeled with a code that the city officials had no key to.
The interior of a biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)
The CDC created a report for the 20 items that were labeled. All these items were sprayed down, disinfected, and put in special waste containers to be incinerated.
In July, a city worker found a freezer that was labeled “Ebola.”
“It was a white piece of paper that was folded over where you couldn’t read it unless you specifically unfolded it. And that paper read Ebola, and it was handwritten,” Ms. Harper with the city of Reedley told The Epoch Times.
Nothing inside that freezer was labeled. This gave Ms. Harper some sleepless nights. The CDC would not investigate something unless it had a specific label on it.
“Unless an item is actually labeled Ebola, it doesn’t fall under the CDC purview for their select agents,” said Ms. Harper.
The bags of potential Ebola virus were shoved in the freezer in a disorderly fashion. They were all in silver sealable bags.
The city never found out what was actually in the bags, as the CDC never examined them.
“They didn’t come, they didn’t test, they didn’t even ask us to sample, and I think that’s why the congressional report was so critical to [the] CDC,” said Ms. Harper.
Nevertheless, the samples were destroyed.
Some of the other refrigerators were found to have things of unknown nature spilled on the bottom of the trays, and it looked like they were taped and moved around in the warehouse or from another warehouse, Ms. Harper said.
“Everything seems to have been done very haphazardly,” she said.
The interior of a suspected biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)
Previously, the CDC ended up hanging up on Ms. Harper on a different inquiry. In March 2023 during an inspection warrant, after the inspectors left, Ms. Harper was left alone in the building as she had to determine whether to turn off the power to the building in order to prevent a fire, given the disorderly things in the warehouse.
With the power off, the freezers’ contents would melt with potentially dangerous consequences due to the pathogens. This is when she called the CDC for advice.
“It was a very short-lived and frustrating phone call that ended with them hanging up,” said Ms. Harper.
Ms. Harper said under-the-radar entities like the biolab can purchase "a lot of chemicals and a lot of biologicals easily and no one is watching over them to make sure they know what they are doing." (Courtesy of Jesalyn Harper)
She ended up not turning off the power in the part of the building where the freezers were after she consulted with Ms. Zieba.
While Ms. Zieba and Ms. Harper are not aware of any other possible charges against Mr. Zhu, they feel that the Energy and Commerce congressional committees should get involved, since the select committee on the CCP does not have authority over privately funded labs, according to Ms. Zieba.
“There needs to be a single source within the government that is responsible for private labs,” added Ms. Zieba.
Both Ms. Zieba and Ms. Harper added that the congressional investigation was very non-partisan and involved great cooperation.
“From the way they talked, you couldn’t tell who was a Democrat and who was a Republican. And I thought, wow, this is phenomenal,” said Ms. Zieba.
While these viruses could have been used for research, they could also be weaponized.
“It is all in the intention,” said Ms. Harper.
According to Dr. Limeng Yan, a virologist who worked at the WHO Reference Lab at the University of Hong Kong until 2020, it is extremely difficult to transport these dangerous pathogens internationally and even more difficult to obtain them in the United States.
“If you need to do international transport, you have to acquire a very strict license from the local government and also the imported government; that means you have to get both approval from the country you ship it from and also [from] the United States. And also, all of these shipments need to be carefully monitored by the couriers, like, we use FedEx or DHL. Without a license, it could only be done illegally,” Mr. Yan told The Epoch Times.
The exterior of a biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)
Zhu’s Legal Case
Mr. Zhu is represented by Tony Capozzi, a well-known defense attorney in the Fresno area. Right after he was announced as Mr. Zhu’s defense attorney, Mr. Capozzi mentioned to another outlet that Mr. Zhu applied for asylum, but the attorney provided no confirmation or evidence when repeatedly asked by The Epoch Times.
Mr. Capozzi did respond to The Epoch Times stating that he is waiting for the evidence on the criminal charges filed against his client Mr. Zhu.
“I have not received any such discovery. The government indicated that it was not using the select committee report in the criminal case,” Mr. Capozzi stated.
Mr. Zhu pleaded not guilty to both charges on Nov. 16, and in the detention hearing, he also entered denial of forfeiture to the properties in the warehouse that have been mostly destroyed by the Reedley City under an abatement court order.
The next court date is set to Jan. 17, 2024 for a status conference. Until then, Mr. Zhu is to stay in custody, according to the court status website.
A date for the trial to start has not yet been set.