A New York Police Department (NYPD) officer was arrested on Monday on suspicion of acting as an intelligence agent for the Chinese government and spying on Tibetan immigrants in New York. Baimadajie Angwang, 33, who rose through the ranks of the department, allegedly misused his position in the department's community affairs unit to give Chinese officials access to NYPD officials and offered insider information about its operations, according to a criminal complaint.
According to prosecutors, Angwang is also employed by the US Army Reserve, working as a civil affairs specialist. The Tibet-born Angwang, who is a neutralized citizen, if convicted, can face a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison.
Police or Spy?
Angwang allegedly agreed to work as an intelligence asset for the Chinese government who spied on US supporters of the Tibetan independence movement. His job was to report on the activity of ethnic Tibetans in the New York area to the Chinese consulate and was tasked with recruiting potential intelligence assets among the city's Tibetan community, prosecutors said.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, Angwang was vested with the responsibility of suppressing the movement. As an agent, he "spotted and assessed potential ethnic Tibetan intelligence sources in the New York metropolitan area and beyond," the complaint said.
He is also accused of being in contact with two officials at the Chinese consulate. Besides reporting on Tibetans in the city, he allegedly provided the consulate with access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official events.
Angwang allegedly carried out his operations between 2018 till his arrest. However, there was no allegation that he compromised national security or NYPD operations. Still, he was considered the definition of an insider threat, William Sweeney, the head of the FBI's New York office, said in a statement.
That said, Angwang told his handler that he wanted to get promoted within the police force so that he could bring "glory to China", according to court documents. Angwang was arrested on the basis of intercepted communications with a consulate official someone he called "big brother" and "boss" about how to identify dissenters in the independence movement.
He is also accused of committing wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding. Court documents said he received "multiple substantial wire transfers from the PRC [People's Republic of China]."
Angwang is a former Marine who served in Afghanistan in 2013, according to his service record. Since 2014, he has served as a US Army Reservist, where he is a staff sergeant working as a civil affairs specialist. He came to the United States from China on a cultural exchange visa, overstayed his second visa and eventually applied for asylum in the United States, claiming that he was "arrested and tortured" in China due in part to his Tibetan ethnicity, according to the complaint. He is being held without bail.