House China Select Committee subpoenas Reedley over secret lab

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formed the House China Select Committee in January. Now the committee is taking its first legal action, and the focus is on a major story from the Central Valley.

The secret Reedley biologics lab has become a central target of the House China Select Committee. 

Last week, the committee issued its first ever subpoena after forming in January in an effort to gather more information about China’s involvement with the Reedley lab. 


Driving the news: Reedley City Manager Nicole Zeiba confirmed during a Fresno County press conference Wednesday that the committee issued a subpoena, asking Reedley to turn over documents and records about the lab. 

  • In response, Reedley provided thousands of pages of documents, along with hundreds of photographs and hours of video. 
  • While the committee is investigating the records, Politico reported that there are concerns from the committee on how the lab was able to operate under the radar. 
  • “[T]he review of the evidence thus far has identified troubling gaps in safeguards that allowed the clandestine facility to operate with impunity, as well as serious deficiencies in the federal government’s response,” a House source told Political. 

The backstory: The Reedley lab was operated by Prestige Biotech, a company owned by Chinese nationals. 

  • Prestige Biotech had previously purchased Universal Meditech’s assets after the latter company went bankrupt. Universal Meditech had operated legally in Fresno from 2018 until 2020 when its lab was damaged in a fire. 

State of play: Last week the Environmental Protection Agency was on site in Reedley taking stock of all the lab chemicals that it will get rid of for the city, saving Reedley around $150,000. 

  • The lab also contains around 500,000 pregnancy tests and COVID tests that will be destroyed. 
  • In October or November the Fresno County Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance that will allow the Public Health Department to conduct annual inspections on privately funded labs. 
  • The ordinance would only apply to unincorporated areas of the county unless each individual city allows the county to step in. 

What we’re watching: Along with the China Select Committee’s subpoena, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is also threatening a subpoena to federal authorities regarding the Reedley lab. 

  • Federal authorities so far have been silent, not answering calls from the committee to turn over records about the lab. 
  • If federal authorities do not cough up information by Thursday, the committee is threatening to subpoena the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

What they’re saying: During Wednesday’s press conference, Zieba said have finally been given the clearance to take some information about the lab to the public. 

  • “We’ve been trying to get word out there that as soon as we are unmuzzled, we want to get word out to the public when we can,” Zieba said. 
  • The Sun previously reported that the state shaped the county’s message about the Reedley lab early on. The state told The Sun that Fresno County was not muzzled in any way. Fresno County was under guidance from the FBI on what it could share publicly while an investigation was underway. 
  • Zieba said the city is very happy that Congress subpoenaed the information and is looking forward to the report coming out in the next couple of weeks.
  • “We, frankly, wished the other agencies in federal government could move this quickly, because we’ve been at this with this Reedley lab abatement for months now,” Zieba said. “So what we are here to also say is please Congress do not stop at this step. Do not stop at this report. We would like hearings. We would like the American public to know what has happened, and we would like the American public to know what it is Congress that you’re going to do about this to protect all of us around this country in the future.” 
  • Fresno County officials also called on federal and state authorities to step up and provide oversight in the future to prevent further unlicensed labs from popping up. 
  • “You can’t have local solve these issues,” said Fresno County Public Health Director David Luchini. “This is a national issue. We’ve got to plug this hole. I think these are reasonable, simple solutions, and we need this for the good of the nation.”
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