What to Know
- A 33-year-old NYPD officer has been arrested for allegedly providing the Chinese government with information on ethnic Tibetans in New York; he also faces charges including wire fraud and obstruction
- Baimadajie Angwang is also employed by the U.S. Army Reserve, serving as a civil affairs specialist out of Fort Dix, where he holds a "secret" level security clearance that officials claim he lied to obtain
- Angwang appeared in Brooklyn federal court with his attorney early Monday evening and was ordered held without bail after not entering a plea
A spokesman for the government of the People's Republic of China dismissed allegations that an NYPD officer allegedly acting as its agent as "pure fabrication" in a statement issued Tuesday, a day after the cop's arrest.
"The indictment is full of hedging terms such as 'seems' and 'possibly,' indicating the falsehood of the accusations," the statement from Wang Wenbin continued. "The U.S. won't succeed in its smears against Chinese consulates and personnel in the U.S."
Baimadajie Angwang, a 33-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Tibet and patrol officer with Queens' 111th Precinct, allegedly agreed to spy on U.S. supporters of the Tibetan independence movement since 2018 as an agent for China in its effort to suppress the movement, according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court.
It says he secretly worked for unnamed handlers from the Chinese Consulate in New York. Angwang faces charges including acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general, wire fraud, making false statements about his contacts and obstruction of an official proceeding.
There was no allegation that Angwang compromised national security or New York Police Department operations. Still, he was considered “the definition of an insider threat,” William Sweeney, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a statement Monday.
Court papers say Angwang’s job as a spy for China was to “locate potential intelligence sources” and “identify potential threats to the (People's Republic of China) in the New York metropolitan area.” He also was expected to provide consulate officials “access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official NYPD events,” they add.
An advocacy group, International Campaign for Tibet, said in a statement that the arrest shows that the “Chinese Communist Party is engaged in malign operations to suppress dissent, not only in Tibet … but any place in the world where Tibetans are free to express themselves.”
Anwang was seen in a photo that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted to Instagram in February 2019 when she attended a Lunar New Year celebration with the Tibetan community of New York and New Jersey. Her office said on Tuesday that they are "greatly troubled" by the allegations against Angwang, who appeared seated right immediately next to Ocasio-Cortez, and that the "Congresswoman took photo with him at community event but had no interaction beyond that."
Angwang, who currently lives in Nassau County's Williston Park, first came to the United States on a cultural exchange visa. He overstayed a second visa and eventually sought asylum in the U.S. on the basis he had been tortured in China due in part to his Tibetan ethnicity, the complaint says. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed by the People's Republic of China since China occupied and took control of the region in 1951.
He allegedly lied on a national security clearance questionnaire about having "extensive contacts with government officials from the People’s Republic of China" and about having ongoing contact with family in China, some of whom were affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed forces unit of the Chinese government.
The NYPD said Monday that Angwang had been with the department for about five years and had been tracked for three of those.
In a statement on his arrest, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Angwang "violated every oath he took in this country. One to the United States, another to the U.S. Army, and a third to this Police Department."
Angwang served in the U.S. Marine Corps until 2014, and spent time in Afghanistan. After the Marines Corps, he joined the Army Reserve, where he holds the rank of Staff Sergeant and is stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in an Airborne Civil Affairs battalion. In that role, Angwang is a civil affairs specialist who advises command on tactical and operational deployment of Civil Affairs teams and assists in planning, training, advising and executing civil-military programs, the complaint says. He holds a "secret" level security clearance in connection with that job; the complaint says he would not have received that clearance level had the Department of Defense been aware of his foreign connections.
Furthermore, he would have been dismissed from the U.S. Army Reserves entirely had the organization been aware of the relationship he allegedly had with two Chinese consulate officials in the New York area dating back to at least 2018.
Federal officials accuse Angwang of providing information on ethnic Tibetans in New York and elsewhere to the Chinese government, scouting out Tibetan intelligence agents and using his official NYPD position to get Chinese consulate officials access to senior NYPD members via official event invitations.
None of those activities fall within the purview of his responsibilities with the NYPD or the U.S. Army Reserve, the criminal complaint says.
Angwang appeared in Brooklyn federal court with his attorney Monday evening and was ordered held without bail after not entering a plea. In a separate memo to the court ahead of that hearing, federal prosecutors said they wanted Angwang held awaiting trial given his strong ties to the Chinese government and the financial means to flee. Angwang faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted.