A federal judge ruled that a former NYPD officer accused of spying for the Chinese regime will be released on bail immediately, according to the New York Post.
The officer in question, Baimadajie Angwang, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 while awaiting trial in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to the Post.
Angwang is accused of delivering information on “Tibetan” immigrants to the Chinese consulate over a six-year period while serving as an NYPD officer. He was charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country, wire fraud, false statements, and obstruction of an official proceeding last September.
Angwang’s attorney John Carman put forward a bail motion, arguing that his client was experiencing “diarrhea, vomiting, sweats, chills, body aches, and cough.” He also cited 100 new COVID-19 cases and recent deaths of two of Angwang’s fellow inmates as evidence of the danger posed to his client.
U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee ruled in favor of the defense’s $2 million bail motion, agreeing that the jail’s sudden spike in COVID-19 cases posed a threat to Angwang’s life. “You have now what looks like a significant spike in the rate and severity of COVID cases,” Judge Komitee said.
NYPD officer Baimadajie Angwang, a community affairs officer in the 111 precinct in Queens and a US Army Reservist at Fort Dix, was arrested for allegedly acting as an agent of China.
According to the criminal complaint, Angwang acted “at the direction and control” of Chinese government officials at the consulate in New York to report on the activities of ethnic Tibetans, assess potential ethnic Tibetan intelligence sources and use his official position at the police department to give consulate officials access to senior NYPD officials.
He was also accused of committing wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding. “None of these activities falls within the scope of Angwang’s official duties and responsibilities with either the NYPD or the USAR,” the complaint said.
Angwang, 33, is an ethnic Tibetan native of the People’s Republic of China and a naturalized U.S. citizen who referred to himself as an “asset” of the People’s Republic of China, according to the criminal complaint. Since June 2018, the FBI said Angwang has been “in frequent communication” with an unidentified Chinese consular official he referred to as “Boss.”
In one phone call between Angwang and the consular official, the complaint said Angwang offered “to raise our country’s soft power” by having the consular official attend NYPD events. He also allegedly offered to provide the consular official with nonpublic information about the internal workings of the police department.
“Angwang also discussed the utility of developing sources for the PRC government in the local Tibetan community and suggested that the primary qualification for a source as follows: ‘If you’re willing to recognize the motherland, the motherland is willing to assist you with its resources,'” the complaint said.
Since prior to 2018 and through the present, officials say Angwang has maintained a relationship with at least two People’s Republic of China officials stationed at the Consulate. One PRC official is believed to have been assigned to the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture,” a division of the PRC’s “United Front Work Department” (UFWD). The department is responsible for, among other things, neutralizing sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC.
Recorded conversations have revealed that the PRC officials has been a “handler” of Angwang. He received tasks from them and reported back to PRC officials.
From August 21, 2014, through August 11, 2017, Angwang called and texted one of the PRC official’s cellular telephone on at least 53 occasions. From in or about and between June 2018 through March 2020, Angwang called and texted the other PRC official’s cellular telephone on at least 55 occasions.
Furthermore, Angwang has been observed entering the Consulate on numerous occasions during these time periods. Angwang will make his first appearance this afternoon virtually in federal court in Downtown Brooklyn. NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also commented on the situation.
“As alleged in this federal complaint, Baimadajie Angwang violated every oath he took in this country,” Shea said in a statement. “One to the United States, another to the U.S. Army, and a third to this Police Department. From the earliest stages of this investigation, the NYPD’s Intelligence and Internal Affairs bureaus worked closely with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division to make sure this individual would be brought to justice.”
FBI Assistant Director of New York William Sweeney Jr. released the following statement on Angwang:
“This is the definition of an insider threat as alleged, Mr. Angwang operated on behalf of a foreign government; lied to gain his clearance, and used his position as an NYPD police officer to aid the Chinese government’s subversive and illegal attempts to recruit intelligence sources. The FBI is committed to stopping hostile foreign governments from infiltrating our institutions, and we will not tolerate the behavior of those who willingly violate their oath to the United States, and covertly work against their fellow citizens. We want to thank the NYPD for its extraordinary partnership on this investigation.”
In 2018, the NYPD awarded Angwang “Officer of the Month” for his initiative and public service. The arrest of an NYPD officer for allegedly spying on local Tibetans for Beijing should serve as a “wake-up call” for U.S. officials about the depth of Chinese espionage in the country, local Tibetan activists said.
Baimadajie Angwang, an ethnic Tibetan and naturalized U.S. citizen, had worked at the NYPD’s 111th Precinct in Queens, and is also an Army reservist holding a “secret security clearance.” The 33-year-old was arrested on September 19 on four charges, including acting as an “illegal” Chinese agent, and faces up to 55 years prison if convicted.
Angwang’s arrest was hardly a surprise to the ethnic Tibetans in New York City who had prior contact with him.
The “Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey” (TCNYNJ), a New York-based nonprofit established in 1979, said they first met Angwang in 2019 when he offered to invite other NYPD officers to the organization’s Lunar New Year celebration event. Not long after that, Angwang’s behavior started raising red flags.
The group, at a September 22 press conference held in Queens, said Angwang’s name “doesn’t sound like a Tibetan name,” so the officer had initially approached them using a different name that was more Tibetan sounding.
While “virtually unknown” in the local Tibetan community until 2018, Angwang had since reached out to the group on “numerous occasions” to “offer service and support,” they said in a press release.
Federal prosecutors allege that Angwang, who is currently awaiting trial without bail, was secretly feeding intelligence to the Chinese Consulate in New York and helped consulate staff gain access to senior NYPD officials. According to court documents, Angwang’s chief handler was a Chinese consular official who worked under the United Front Work Department, a sprawling agency tasked with extending the regime’s influence globally.
In February 2019, Angwang appeared with his wife and child at the New Year celebration attended by thousands and was received as a “mid-level guest” because of his affiliation with the NYPD. Not long after, TCNYNJ members spotted his wife in a photo at another Lunar New Year event held at the Chinese consulate in New York, which made them “very uncomfortable,” the press release stated. Tashi Choephel, the organization’s former general secretary, said that Angwang’s wife had worn the same ethnic gown to both events that took place on the same day.
Tibetans, like other ethnic minorities or religious groups such as Uyghurs and Falun Gong adherents, suffer from severe repression in China. New York City is home to thousands of Tibetan-in-exiles who escaped after experiencing various forms of persecution in China. Angwang’s connection with Chinese officials, therefore, immediately triggered alarm bells, said Choephel.
Their suspicion grew further when Angwang discouraged them from engaging in pro-Tibet activities and also expressed disapproval of speeches criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Tibetans in China.
Angwang also tried to dissuade Choephel from displaying Tibetan flags at the group’s premises in Woodside, Queens, Choephel recalled. By having the flags there, “you can’t get more donations from Flushing businessmen, it’s against China government’s agenda,” Angwang told him.
While the TCNYNJ never expected any financial support from these groups, such remarks had deeply upset Choephel. He said Angwang was trying to manipulate them to toe the Party line by exploiting their need for funding.
“What kind of Tibetan would ever tell us not to raise the Tibetan flag?” the group said in the statement, adding that they “never heeded his unsolicited advice.”
TCNYNJ discussed these observations and ultimately decided to cut ties with him, agreeing that “he did not seem like someone we could trust.”
After this, Angwang made repeated phone calls to then-president Sonam Gyephel who ignored the calls, Gyephel recounted at the press conference. But he eventually decided to confront Angwang about his connections with the Chinese regime.
“What’s your relation with the Chinese Consulate?” Gyephel asked Angwang over the phone. Gyephel also asked about the consulate photo, to which Angwang admitted that he attended the event but was helping someone with a visa application. He said, “I’m in relation with the Chinese Consulate,” according to Gyephel.
“Once I got that message, I was really shocked,” Gyephel said in a later interview. He then told Angwang that the organization no longer wanted anything to do with him. Gyephel avoided all communications with Angwang since then.
Angwang’s arrest has renewed focus on the Chinese regime’s ongoing spying and intimidation campaigns against dissident groups in the United States. When Tibetan immigrants attend protests against the Chinese regime, a person like Angwang could report their names to the Chinese consulate, which in turn could punish them by targeting their relatives in China, Gyephel said.
In a September 23 speech addressing Chinese espionage threats, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the New York Chinese consulate as “incredibly politically active.”
“They’re engaged in activities where they’re crossing the line from normal diplomacy to the kinds of things that would be more akin to what spies are doing,” Pompeo said when asked to elaborate on the consulate’s activities.
The administration in July closed down the Chinese consulate in Houston saying it was a “hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”