A New York City police officer was arrested Monday by federal authorities, who say the cop has been secretly working as an agent of the Chinese government for the past six years.
The accused officer, Baimadajie Angwang, 33, is a community affairs liaison at the 111th Precinct in Queens. He is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and now serves as a civil affairs specialist in the Army Reserve, according to prosecutors. Angwan served one tour overseas, and holds a secret-level security clearance.
Angwang has “maintained a relationship with at least two PRC officials stationed at the [Chinese] Consulate” in New York City, says a complaint unsealed Monday in Brooklyn federal court. One is reportedly assigned to the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture,” a division of the country’s United Front Work Department. Angwang referred to this man as “boss” and “big brother,” according to the complaint, and allegedly offered to provide the consulate with inside information about the NYPD.
“This Department is responsible for, among other things, neutralizing sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC,” the filing explains.
Angwang, who is ethnically Tibetan, allegedly began communicating with his “handler” in 2014, according to court filings. The FBI says it has documented more than 100 conversations between Angwang and his Chinese government contacts during that time.
“The investigation has revealed that ANGWANG, while acting at the direction and control of PRC officials, has, among other things, (1) reported on the activities of ethnic Tibetans, and others, in the New York metropolitan area to the Consulate, (2) spotted and assessed potential ethnic Tibetan intelligence sources in the New York metropolitan area and beyond, and (3) used his official position in the NYPD to provide Consulate officials access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official NYPD events,” says the complaint, which dryly points out that “none of these activities” fall within Angwang’s official law enforcement responsibilities.
Angwang is a naturalized U.S. citizen, having first come to America on a cultural exchange visa. After receiving—and overstaying—a second visa, Angwang was granted asylum for the persecution and torture he claimed to have endured at the hands of the Chinese government “due partly to this Tibetan ethnicity,” says the complaint.
As an agent, he was allegedly tasked with locating and recruiting potential intelligence assets among the Tibetan community in New York. And even though the family is Tibetan, a minority group long oppressed by Beijing, the FBI says Angwang’s ties to the Chinese government run deep. His father is a retired member of the People’s Liberation Army, where his brother currently serves as a reservist. Angwang’s mother is a retired government official and a member of the Chinese Communist Party, according to the complaint.
Investigators also tracked Angwang’s finances, zeroing in on large transfers he made between the U.S. and China. In 2016, Angwang—who makes about $50,000 a year—wired $100,000 to his brother’s account in China. The following month, Angwang wired $50,000 to another account in China, held in someone else’s name.
In a statement, the International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington, D.C., human-rights NGO, said, “If confirmed by the courts, the alleged spying operation established at the direction of the Chinese government against the Tibetan American community in New York shows that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in malign operations to suppress dissent, not only in Tibet, where Tibetans are oppressed and denied all freedoms, but any place in the world where Tibetans are free to express themselves, starting with the United States of America. By strictly limiting access to Tibet for the Tibetan American community, the Chinese government tries to create an atmosphere of suspicion among the members of the community and tries to exploit it to its advantage.”
Angwang’s detention hearing was held Monday afternoon. After about an hour’s delay, during which court staff struggled to dial into the remote hearing, the proceeding got underway. Still, it wasn’t without hitches. U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann had a problem with her device’s camera: She could see Angwang, but he could not see her from the court’s holding cell.
Angwang confirmed that he understood the charges against him and consented to being detained without prejudice, meaning he retains the right to apply for bail in the future.
John Carman, Angwang’s lawyer, declined to comment.