China: Wang Ting-yu warns of 'external conflict'
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Guojie Zhang worked on behalf of the Communist regime’s Red Army while at the University of Copenhagen. The academic’s research – which he carried out with a student – looked into how the brains of monkeys respond to extreme altitudes.
This is of keen interest to the Chinese military which has faced a long battle with separatists in the high altitude autonomous region of Tibet.
Part of the region is contested by India – which also hosts the Dalai Lama who is the head of Tibet’s exiled Government.
Discovering which genes respond well to high altitudes could enable the PLA to develop technology that could be used to stop its soldiers being affected by it.
While working at the Danish capital’s university, Mr Zhang was also employed by Shenzhen-based genomics giant BGI Group.
It funds dozens of researchers at the university and has its European headquarters on the university’s campus.
Last January he co-published a paper alongside a PLA major general on the research without telling the university its true purpose.
Niels Kroer, head of its biology department, said that the university was “not familiar with the fact that the paper also included authors from Chinese military research institutions”.
Mr Zhang told Reuters that he did not inform the university of the link because it didn’t require researchers to report co-authors on scientific papers to it, something which the university confirmed.
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BGI said the study with the PLA lab “was not carried out for military purposes” and brain research is a critical area for understanding human diseases.
A spokesman added: “The project using BGI’s technology studied the changes of the pathophysiology and genomics of the human body at very high altitudes.
“In China, many military institutions … carry out both civilian and military research.”
But China’s science academy said the study had national defence and civilian benefits on the Tibetan plateau – hinting that it could be used to help its soldiers fight better at higher altitudes.
The revelations come as China’s abuse of Western academia to pursue military-civilian technology causes increasing concern.
In response the US has agreed to work with the European Union to counter the issue.
It came after an American Department of Defense report on China’s military power flagged concern over Beijing using biotechnology to enhance its soldiers’ performance.
The EU Commission said that it is developing guidelines on “tackling foreign interference” at higher education institutions.
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