Too Close to Home: California Warehouse Was a Front for Illegal Chinese Lab 

aslysun /
aslysun /

Local and federal officials got more than they bargained for when they raided a warehouse in Reedley, California. Within the structure was a nightmarish scene: hundreds of deceased lab mice, vials of improperly stored communicable viruses, and boxes of unlabeled pathogens and chemicals. 

The warehouse first caught the attention of officials in early March when a code enforcement officer noticed a garden hose sticking out of the building. The hose prompted a search warrant and a probe that uncovered the makeshift lab. At the end of the investigation in early July, the lab was shut down, and all contents of the facility were moved or safely disposed of. 

An investigation revealed the California lab was run by a Chinese entity caked Prestige Biotech. The president of the company, Xiuquin Yao, said Prestige Biotech was part of a now-defunct company called Universal Meditech Inc. A deeper look into these entities in China revealed only empty office buildings and false addresses, and Prestige officials have not been forthcoming with details about the California lab. 

One room in the facility revealed over 1000 lab mice stored inhumanely on filthy bedding. Many of the mice were deceased and stuffed into storage bins. Per officials, the workers at the unlicensed facility were conducting tests to develop COVID test kits. It’s not clear if any of the test kits were sold to the public. 

Another room was filled with vials containing biomaterials such as blood and tissue samples. Stored alongside these vials were unlabeled chemicals. Testing of those chemicals revealed that some contained active coronavirus and both bacterial and viral pathogens, including E. coli, streptococcus pneumonia, herpes 1 and 5, malaria, rubella, chlamydia, and HIV. 

Investigators found freezers filled with packages of blood and containers labeled “plasma” and “serum.” The origins of biomaterials are currently unknown. 

The “black market lab” was disposing of hazardous materials in ways that violated safe removal protocols as dictated in the Medical Waste Management Act. City officials have moved over 5000 gallons of biological and hazardous waste products from the building to date. 

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) remarked, “China is in our house.” She called for accountability following the disturbing discovery of the black market lab on United States soil. 

Ernst observed, “China is not just in our backyard, they are in our house, illegally conducting risky research that poses a serious public health concern.” 

Ernst went on to recall the devastating impact of China’s Wuhan Laboratory experiments of coronavirus in bats. She goes on to note that the United States “cannot allow what happened at Wuhan” to happen on its own shores and called for accountability. 

Ernst introduced legislation known as the Accountability in Foreign Animal Research Act of 2023, banning the use of U.S. taxpayer money for Chinese animal research and experimentation. Her bill was in response to the National Institute of Health’s questionable funding of $2 million taxpayer dollars by EcoHealth Alliance to enable their bat coronavirus research. 

This grant had been terminated under former president Donald Trump when it was discovered that the NIH funneled funding for the Chinese lab through the EcoHealth alliance, despite the knowledge that the Wuhan lab engaged in gain-of-function research, which is the study of altering viruses to make them more deadly or infectious. 

The discovery of the black-market lab strikes a chord with Americans, especially considering the revelation that the FBI knew that the COVID pandemic originated from the Wuhan labs, despite their emphatic denials.  

Residents of Reedley, California, have received assurances that the erstwhile lab is no longer a biological threat. Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba reassured the community that all biological hazards have been removed and safely disposed of, along with the lab animals. The process of removing the medical equipment and furniture is still ongoing, and the investigations continue. 

In June, Ernst and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) teamed up to introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at limiting China’s ongoing attempts to purchase U.S. farmland. It is a small step to limit China’s increasing power within the U.S.  

It can only be hoped that the Biden administration can get out of China’s pocket long enough to recognize the threat where it already is, in China, and where it is emerging…in the United States.